The Ladera Heights cigar lounge features leather couches, big screen televisions, and a relaxing environment.
***Update: SmoKings has closed. Clock the link below to read about other Black-owned cigar lounges in Los Angeles and Inglewood.
By Jason Lewis
Smo King’s Fine Cigars in the Ladera Center is like the man cave that every guy wishes he had. Big screen televisions line the walls with leather couches and sofa seats positioned just right so each person can watch the game of their choice. And then there’s the fine selection of cigars.
“This place is like a home away from home,” said manager Darcel Goldson. “Because of the comfort. You come here and there’s peace. You can lay back. You have control over the TVs. It’s not like we control them. Everybody respects everybody. The majority of everybody knows each other because of living in the area or from hanging out here.”
The cigars are what attracts people to an establishment like this, but it is the sense of community that keeps the customers coming back.
“It’s like a family getting together,” Goldson said. “Everybody will bring food, and everybody shares. Sometimes they’ll have their drinks, but for the most part it’s like a bond, like a friendship and a family type thing. There is trash talk, but it’s always friendly. It’s playful back and forth, and it’s all in fun.”
The friendly banter elevates on Saturdays and especially on Sundays, when customers who frequent Smo King’s bypass the typically smoke-free sports bars to watch the college and NFL football games while smoking cigars.
While it is mostly a male crowd, women also enjoy themselves at the lounge.
“It’s mostly men, but some of the gentlemen will bring their wives to hangout and smoke,” Goldson said. “They’ll go to dinner after, or come here after dinner. Some ladies will come in here with their friends.”
There is no a concern about the smell of cigar smoke clinging to clothes or hair when leaving the lounge. Smo King’s has an answer for that.
“We have a really good ventilation system,” Goldson said. “When you’re in there it’s not all smokey and your throat is not burning. You’re not going to be grossed out by the smoke.”
For Windsor Hills resident John Coleman, the lounge serves a few different purposes. As a health care consultant, he mainly works outside of the office. Instead of working from home, or at a local coffee shop, he swings by the cigar lounge which has free Wi-Fi.
“I make this my office, because if I’m at home, I get preoccupied and won’t do the work that I need to do,” he said. “But I can sit in here, where it’s relatively quiet, and I can get all my work done.”
Coleman stops by the lounge around 10:30 a.m. and stays until about 3 p.m. When he wants to interact with people he can, but when he needs to work, people respect that.
“When you come into a cigar lounge, cigar etiquette is you really don’t talk to other people in the lounge unless they want to talk to you,” he said. “So if they see you working or you have head phones on, no one will interrupt you. It’s a mutual agreement to have a conversation, so you can work in peace without noise getting too loud.”
When there are conversations, just about everything that guys talk about is discussed.
“We talk about sports, politics, marriage, kids, life, everything,” Coleman said. “It’s actually one of the places that I like to come to because there are a lot of older successful men here that have raised their kids, and they have moved on into retirement. They give a lot of sound advice about moving into the next stage of your life.”
While the lounge creates a social atmosphere, it’s the quality cigars that brings people together.
“I got started with cigars just to kind of relax and be in an environment away from home,” Coleman said. “Once you learn about the taste and character of the cigar, it’s just an added enhancement to the overall environment. It’s not just smoking the cigar, it’s coming to the lounge, sitting down relaxing, and if you want to sit down and talk to somebody, it’s all inclusive.”
Smo King’s is located at 6713 La Tijera Blvd. Visit their website at www.smokingsla.com or call them at 310-670-5464.