As all of us have had to stand by and watch our lives be turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept across the world, more and more industries have found themselves facing slumping sales due to factory shutdowns and other related aspects of the coronavirus. Unfortunately, for those of us in Atlanta and the surrounding area, this often means our favorite cigar shop and lounge may have had to temporarily shut its doors. However, while things may look bleak at the moment, chances are these businesses will open up once again in the coming months.
Around the world, various cigar manufacturers are dealing with stay-at-home orders issued by government officials. Because of this, we are finding factories in such key cigar-producing parts of the world such as Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic are closing factories in an effort to keep their workers safe. For example, on March 16, Honduras started taking steps to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the country, which included sending both public and private-sector workers home. Since the only exception to this rule were essential workers employed in such areas as security, healthcare, and defense, major cigar factories for Rocky Patel, Camacho, C.L.E., and Plasencia have limited or halted production altogether.
While we certainly hate to think of the many cigars that are not being produced in Honduras, we are also sad to report that many major Dominican cigar manufacturers have also temporarily ceased operations. Unfortunately, these include many factories that produce arguably the world’s best cigars, such as Davidoff, General Cigar Dominicana, and La Auora among others. However, on a positive note, Nicaraguan cigar factory owners, including Riste Ristevski, announced that his company had been importing its core line and Nuggs since February, resulting in a 60-90 day supply for stateside-based sales.
While the impact of coronavirus is certainly being felt worldwide, we have seen an immediate impact here in the United States. One of the biggest changes has been the cancellation of many major events centered on the love of cigars. This has included seeing Cigar International’s CigarFest postponed until October 16-17, 2020, Cigar Aficionado’s Big Smoke Meets WhiskeyFest rescheduled for October 31, and one of our personal favorites, Drew Estate’s Florida Barn Smoker, rescheduled to November 14, 2020. Though it will take some getting used having to spend our summer waiting for these cool events, we have no doubt that when they do resume in the Fall, they will be bigger and better than ever, in addition to being much-appreciated by those of us who have been longing to gather together with our fellow cigar lovers for a good smoke and good conversation.
Along with these major U.S. events being postponed, most if not all cigar manufacturers have also asked their sales representatives and other staff members to work from their homes while the coronavirus crisis plays out. And as we have discovered here in Atlanta as well as throughout various parts of the country, the stay-at-home orders imposed by various states has also resulted in small businesses being forced to close for an unspecified period of time. Unfortunately, this includes numerous tobacco retailers and other related businesses. Due to these sudden changes in how to conduct business, these retailers are now relying almost exclusively on curbside pickup and grab-and-go services.
Though it is now harder on all of us to get our favorite cigars, we are also having to cope with having fewer place where we can sit down with friends and smoke our favorite stogies. Along with the retail part of their businesses being closed to the public, most businesses have also had to close their lounges until further notice. Although we are staying at home to smoke our cigars, we are marking off the days on our calendars until we can visit our favorite lounge, sit down in that comfortable chair, light up our cigar, and enjoy a few laughs with old (and new) friends.
With many of us worried about the current short-term impacts the COVID-19 pandemic is having on cigar manufacturing companies as well as various retailers and lounges, we are also hoping that this health crisis will not result in the closing of our favorite stores and lounges. According to industry experts we have spoken with, it does not appear as if this will be the case. In fact, many cigar retailers have stayed very optimistic throughout this ordeal, and have actually been able to adapt to the new normal far easier than they anticipated. Surprisingly, despite shutdowns and far fewer people going out on a daily basis, most cigar retailers have told us business has remained steady in spite of reduced store hours and limited access to the stores and lounges.
As we have heard from the beginning of this crisis, we are all in this together. However, in the days ahead, we can look forward to venturing out with our friends to our favorite Atlanta tobacco shop and cigar lounge. When we do, you can be sure that when our cigars are once again lit, each puff will indeed be appreciated.