If you have to butt out, that's the way to do it.
Cigar smoke filled the air of the Drake Hotel as stogie smokers bid adieu to the end of an era. But they did it in style - with great music, fine cigars, and a sushi model named Erin English - who kind of brings a whole new meaning to sushi bar.
"It's fun," said the Promostar model, who helped ease the pain of Ontario's new tobacco ban.
It was the last smoke in the Big Smoke since the flame burned out at midnight this morning. The anti-smoking assassins have won and the smokers have lost. The game is over. Maple Leafs fans understand the feeling all to well.
But it was party time at the Drake, where patrons dined on gourmet food and wines and enjoyed one last experience of the good old days.
"It's a chance for cigar smokers to come together as a large group one last time without the concern of fines," said David Riabov of Scratch Marketing.
He's right because from now on there are no more glassed-in smoking rooms, no more private clubs, no more covered outdoor patios, no more smoking rooms in the workplace.
And parties like the one at The Drake are no more.
You used to be able to get a special designation for a private party. Used to.
"I don't like it," trucking company owner Jerry J. Smith said of the new ban. "I don't like it because I don't have a choice."
Fellow cigar smokers Dan Frankian and Jeremie Roy nod their heads in agreement. They just don't know what to say.
It seems cigarette, pipe and cigar smokers, enjoying a perfectly legal product, have somehow become public enemy No. 1 -- other than at the end of the year when the government adds up all the tax money they collect from them.
Those are the very same tax dollars which funded the anti-smoking lobby who defeated them. But there's no use in complaining. It's done.
But the fight is not out of every smoker. "This issue is so much bigger than banning smoking. It's about self determination and individual liberties," says Dave Brown. "This is draconian legislation. Those effected should hire a high profile lawyer like Clayton Ruby."
Smith doesn't know if it will happen. "But I think it should be challenged."
The Drake was a good choice for such an event since it is 117 years old -- albeit slickly renovated in 2004 and perhaps the hippest nightspot in town.
But back in the day it was known for its beverage room, stogies, railway workers, locals and veterans.
"It has quite a history," said GM Bill Simpson.
There's more history to come. One day, years from now, they may look back on this night and talk of a day when you could actually light up a cigarette or cuban cigars inside. It may seem strange in 2106.
The Drake has adjusted. They will still have a large open air outdoor patio that complies with the laws.
But last night hundreds packed the Drake for one last smoke of fine cigars provided by sponsors Brigham Enterprises, Havana House, House of Horvath, Kretek International and The David Cigar Corp. These are all fine local companies paying their taxes and providing jobs.
It's a different corporate reality for them now.
Tobacco Haven, in the Atrium on Bay, will still have its customers, says owner Aziz Chatur. But there will definitely be less. "I have been in the business 22 years and I can say we are affected," he said.
He's a survivor though and he'll find a way.
And Dan More, GM of Brigham, said he's confident the cigar game will go on. "The guys will still have their cottages, backyards and golf courses," he said.
Last night's event was more symbolic than anything. At midnight a bell sounded and that was it.
Lights out. Butts out. And once the smoke cleared, and man was it thick, it was not lost on anyone that the smoking room will never happen again in the province of Ontario. Legally, that is.
There will be no more smoking rooms or special designations for cigar events. It's zero-tolerance now.
For the most part, public smoking in Ontario has been extinguished.
As of 12:01 this morning, all butts had to be out.
Saturday, February 02, 2008