Local cigar bar owners said a bill being considered by the state Senate that allows them to obtain liquor licenses would provide a major boost to business.
David Garofalo, owner of Two Guys Smoke Shop in Salem, said cigar sales have been on the decline ever since a 2007 law banned smoking in restaurants. The ban especially hurts in the winter because people have few places where they can smoke inside, he said.
"The winter has been very rough and this can help us hold on to our business," Garofalo said. "This gives us an option for more income."
Paul Kirlis, owner of The Cigar Room in Pelham, said his business has been suffering, too. He said allowing beverages such as beer and wine to be served would be a welcome addition.
"It goes hand in hand," Kirlis said. "People could sit down and have a smoke and a drink."
The bill, expected to be voted on in the Senate today, allows for stores to apply for a liquor license to sell beer and wine by the glass or bottle, and liquor by the glass. To be eligible, at least 60 percent of the business' income must come from tobacco sales. Only alcohol purchased at the business could be consumed there.
The bill was approved by the House in April.
Rep. John Hunt, R-Cheshire, who sponsored the legislation, said businesses would still need to comply with the Indoor Smoking Act if House Bill 392 becomes law.
"If you are in the business of selling cigar products, you would still have to comply with the Indoor Smoking Act," Hunt said. "All we are saying is if they are sitting down enjoying a cigar, why shouldn't they also be able to enjoy a Scotch?"
Garofalo said Two Guys, which has two lounge areas, would apply for a liquor license if the legislation passes, but the shop would still mainly focus on cigars.
"I don't see us selling as many drinks as cigars, that's for sure," he said.
Cigar bar patrons also said they liked the idea.
Gene Leahy of North Reading, Mass., said a glass of wine would go well with the cigar he was puffing on in a lounge at Two Guys.
"If they had a wine list, that would be great," he said.
Two Guys patron Bill Bergeron said he comes for the social atmosphere and allowing liquor would be a nice addition.
"This is one of the only places where I can just relax," he said. "It isn't like coming to a bar."
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