Measure Would Allow New Establishments that Meet Strict Guidelines
(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Reed Gusciora, Wayne P. DeAngelo and Joseph A. Lagana that would allow new cigar bars or cigar lounges to open in New Jersey was released Thursday by an Assembly panel.
“Cigar smokers are a devoted and nuanced group of aficionados who gather and socialize in an environment that would be their own,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “This bill would give towns that want to expand their offerings and appeal to this niche market the option to do so. It would also create a new economic engine for entrepreneurs who want to cater to cigar enthusiasts, and give cigar smokers more places to go to and enjoy their hobby without affecting non-smokers.”
“The restrictions and regulations in this bill strike the right balance between cigar hobbyists and public health concerns over smoking,” said DeAngelo (D-Middlesex). “It’s up to towns to decide if they want the new business and, after that, it’s up to the business owners to keep things running in accordance with the law. This way, everyone benefits.”
“The number of active cigar bars in the state have dwindled since the passage of the clean air act in 2004,” said Lagana (D-Bergen). “Granting new cigar bars the ability to open, but only with municipal sign off, will help insure that new establishments only appear in areas where there’s actual local demand.”
The bill (A-2057) would authorize a municipality to adopt an ordinance allowing certain new cigar lounges within the municipality that are exempt from the provisions of the “New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act.” The ordinance would set forth how many such lounges may open and operate within the municipality. If the ordinance is adopted, a prospective cigar lounge would have to apply to the municipality’s local board of health for a registration to open and operate in the municipality.
The local board of health may only grant such application if the lounge will:
- not sell or serve food or alcoholic beverages. However, the bill does make an exception for food or alcoholic beverages to be sold or served in the case of private parties or other duly permitted events that are not open to the general public;
- not be located within a bar or restaurant;
- have an entrance distinct from any other establishment; and
- be directly accessible by the public; be equipped with an exhaust system appropriate to ensure worker and customer safety; and not allow the use of hookahs.
Under current law, only a cigar bar or lounge that opened before December 31, 2004 could be registered with the local board of health, and be exempted from the provisions of the “New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act.”
The bill would require a new cigar lounge to renew its registration after one year, and each year thereafter. The local board of health may only renew a registration if the cigar lounge generates 15 percent or more of its total annual gross income from the on-site sale of tobacco products and the rental of on-site humidors, not including any sales from vending machines, continues to comply with all the requirements of the initial registration, replaces the filter of the exhaust system, and does not expand its size or change its location. If a cigar lounge fails to have its registration renewed, its owner would not be permitted to register another cigar lounge.
The bill would take effect on the first day of the seventh month next following the date of enactment, but the Commissioner of Health may take any anticipatory administrative action in advance that is necessary for implementation.
The bill was released by the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee.