Lynn Jones, owner of the Washington Street Cigar Bar and Lounge, said that people have the wrong impression about her business.
“It’s not some seedy little place where men go to hide,” she said. “Cigar bars are places you go to unwind.”
Jones, who opened the business at 244 S. Washington St. two months ago, has put together an experience rather than simply a destination.
It was a long time coming. Jones, a native of Enfield who grew up in Washington, D.C., said the idea of a cigar bar started with her high school friend Tammy Shelton in Waldorf, Md. Shelton smoked cigars and taught Jones.
“I thought it was so sophisticated,” Jones said. “She was a pretty girl and totally into that lifestyle. And I thought, ‘When I retire, I’m gonna open me a cigar bar.’”
Jones, whose career pathway took her to South Africa and Botswana as a government contractor with the U.S. State Department, has done just that.
Jones started work on the property in March 2018, gutting the entire building and replacing drywall, the HVAC system and installing a new bathroom. A major feature is a 10-foot by 10-foot room lined with Spanish cedar: It’s the humidor where Jones keeps 40 to 50 brands of cigars, mostly from Nicaragua, Cuba and Honduras. Jones said the humidor keeps the cigars fresh with the right temperature and humidity.
That, she said, prevents them from drying out and becoming stale, which makes the “pull” hard and the taste stale.
Patrons, who must be 21 to enter, can choose a cigar and relax in the lounge with a cup of coffee or espresso or a drink from the bar, enjoying a game or the news from any of four flat-screen TVs. Jones said some prefer a quiet corner on their phones or laptops with free Wi-Fi.
The 8-foot-long bar, manned by bartender Shameil, occupies the middle of the room. It was crafted with reclaimed wood from a 160-year-old farmhouse in Greenville. Shameil’s drink specialty, Jones said, is “The Desperado,” a concoction made with tequila, vodka and grenadine.
Surrounding the bar are sofas and lounges where patrons can also use 2-and-a-half-foot-tall glass hookahs. Jones said the hookahs, which use water, coal and a “shisha,” can be rented for $25.
The shisha, or tobacco packet, is a syrupy tobacco mix traditionally composed of molasses, vegetable glycol and various flavorings. Each hookah, Jones said, is cleaned after use with a disinfectant and bleach and is thoroughly rinsed.
Jones said some of her patrons buy cigars to enjoy at home, but many stay.
“It’s not like a club,” she said. “It’s a place to relax. You’re surrounded by people who may have had a hard day, like yourself, and you can let down.”
Jones said about 80 percent of her customers are men, but she encourages them to bring their wives. Artwork featuring female smokers adorns the walls.
There is a wrong way and a right way to smoke a cigar, Jones explained, adding that she enjoys teaching people about the art.
“Never inhale,” she said. “It’ll kill your lungs and make you sick.”
The right way to enjoy a cigar, Jones said, is to “cut the cap, put the fire to the foot and turn the cigar to get a proper toasting, to get it to burn evenly. Then you draw and let the smoke savor in your mouth, then blow it out.”
Jones advises new smokers to have something in their stomachs before they try a cigar, which comes in mild, medium and bold strengths. She said she’d never introduce a new smoker to anything but a mild, adding that cigars produce a multitude of tastes: some woodsy and some more fruity and sweet. Cigars, called “sticks,” can be purchased from $5.99 to $20.99.
The Washington Street Cigar Bar and Lounge has a Facebook page, “Washington St. Cigar Bar and Lounge,” and is open from 2 p.m. to 12 a.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 2 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturdays and 5 -11 p.m. Sundays.