MEET THE OWNER – Diana Hutton became the owner of Perfect Ash in October 2014. She is not your typical cigar connoisseur. Diana was born and raised in Mexico City. Also, she is a licensed Mexican attorney with 10+ years of legal experience, who came to Minnesota in 2013 to obtain a master’s degree in Business Law from the University of Minnesota. After that, Diana made her home in Minnesota and purchased Perfect Ash, to become the only Mexican female sole-proprietor of a tobacco shop in the state, and one of the very few in the country.
Perfect Ash has flourished under her direction. Diana revamped the company’s business policies and has expanded to include women and millennials. Diana strives to provide a friendly, comfortable, clean cigar-focused environment where frequent and new customers enjoy great company and relax. Diana and her knowledgable tobacconists are committed to helping you select the right cigar and provide a memorable experience every time you come in and “light up.”
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It’s 11:30 a.m. on a weekday, and six middle-aged men are sitting on plush, leather couches and chairs and talking politics and religion — all while puffing on moderately priced cigars.
Welcome to the Lilydale Social Club, an 800-square-foot indoor haven for cigar smokers that opened in November. At a time when Minnesota’s statewide smoking ban is pushing smokers outdoors, the Lilydale club — next to a cigar shop on Sibley Memorial Highway — is finding a loyal membership.
“There’s nothing out there like this,” said Lindy Barsness, 60, of Prior Lake. On Wednesday, he took a break from his sales job to smoke a $9.50 Hoyo de Monterrey cigar at the club.
Private cigar-smoking clubs are popping up across the nation in response to smoking bans. A few are in the open like Lilydale’s. Others operate in secret, like one such underground club on East Seventh Street in downtown St. Paul.
Often called “smoke-easies,” taken from the Prohibition-era speakeasy, the clubs have been reported in states from New York to California.
Their legality has yet to be challenged here.
The Minnesota Department of Health says there are no provisions that allow smoking for social functions, including clubs, according to the agency’s indoor air supervisor, Dale Dorschner. He hadn’t heard of the local clubs.
But the attorney for the Lilydale Social Club notes the smoking ban was created as a way to protect employees. Their club has no employees. And it is not open to the public.
“This place is not circumventing anything,” attorney Ryan Kaess said, while pulling on an $8 Rocky Patel cigar during a visit to the club. “We fall outside the parameters. We don’t have any employees, and the public cannot walk in. It literally is just a room where people walk in and smoke cigars.”
The club’s founder, Mike Petrich, of Lake Elmo, “is on firm legal ground,” Kaess said, though he expects a fight from the state.
“I’m sure there are people at the Department of Health who would want to put us out of business,” Kaess said. “It’s not about health — everyone who walks in here knows the risks.”
Minnesota’s ban on smoking in bars, restaurants, bingo halls and nearly all other public areas took effect in October. The law was designed to protect the health of workers and guests of such businesses.
But several bars have fought the ban, even going as far as staging plays to take advantage of a loophole that allows theater performers to smoke on stage.
Kaess predicted cigar-smoking clubs will become “a wave of the future” in the Twin Cities.
About 80 members — mostly men — pay $250 a year to belong to the Lilydale club. They get electronic key cards to enter a secured door that connects the club to Perfect Ash, the adjacent cigar shop. A sign on the club’s door reads, “All guests must pay to enter club (no exceptions).”
The cigar store is run by Petrich’s wife, Diana. She quit her job at 3M Co. after 27 years to open Perfect Ash in 2004. A $25,000 humidor with Spanish cedar-clad walls keeps about 16,000 cigars — costing from $1.50 to $34 apiece — fresh.
Last year, the 49-year-old Petrich borrowed $60,000 to transform a former binoculars shop into the club. It features two high-definition TVs, wireless Internet, plush carpeting, a poker table and a kitchen area with a stainless-steel refrigerator. A large window gives members “a million-dollar view of the Mississippi River,” said Diana Petrich, 46.
Four vents operated by two air-exchange systems pump out the smoke.
Cigarettes are not allowed. “It interferes with the flavor of the cigar,” Kaess said.
One member smoking at the club this week was a minister. He asked not to be named because his congregation does not know he sometimes smokes.
“There’s a synergy of people here,” he said. “The guy who buys the $2 cigar can sit and talk with the guy who buys the $30 cigar and they go about their day.”
The club averages about 100 people a week, with busier times being weekends and when a good game is on TV. Members can bring guests, who must pay $5 to enter and sign a waiver that states they know the risks of second-hand cigar smoke.
“You’re renting the space to come in and smoke your cigar,” Kaess said. “The closest thing to this place would be a hotel.”
The club in St. Paul’s Lowertown is just as nicely decked out, say those who have been there but who asked not to be named. Sports memorabilia line the walls, and there is stylish furniture and storage for cigars.
The operators could not be reached for comment.
CAN THE STATE STEP IN?
The clubs are nothing more than an attempt to bypass smoking bans and have been seen in other states with similar restrictions, said Mike Maguire, spokesman for the American Cancer Society of Minnesota. The state must step in, he said.
“There is nothing in the Freedom to Breathe Act that exempts private clubs,” Maguire said. “If there is smoking going on that violates the Freedom to Breathe Act, we believe the law should be enforced.”
The state statute allows customers or potential customers of tobacco shops to light up and “sample” products, said the Health Department’s Dorschner. The law does set some conditions, however, such as requiring that greater than 90 percent of the shop’s gross revenue come from the sale of tobacco, tobacco products or smoking-related accessories.
Perfect Ash has a cigar bar and allows customers to sample cigars and pipe tobacco, Petrich said, but added the club is a completely separate entity from the store.
Even so, the statute doesn’t clearly state the definition of sampling, noted Dorschner, who did not want to comment on the Lilydale club.
“Arguably, someone can smoke an entire cigar and still be sampling,” Kaess said.
Petrich is trying to take the club to another level by allowing members to bring their own alcohol. Kaess on Monday presented his client’s case to the Lilydale City Council, which approved an application for a bottle club permit on a 4-1 vote.
Kaess said he intends to mail the application to the state’s Department of Public Safety.
“I don’t know yet how that’s going to work with the state,” he said. “I’m confident, and we’ll see what happens. But like smoking in here, it’s really no different than guys hanging out in a garage with a six-pack and watching the game.”
Nick Ferraro can be reached at 651-228-2173.
Where to Smoke: Minneapolis
There are some beautiful places to smoke in Minneapolis. However, the powers that be decided they wanted to tax the “ash” off cigars here, so they imposed a tax equal to 95 percent of the wholesale price of the cigar or tobacco. Minnesota has some of the highest tobacco taxes in the country, but that shouldn’t deter you from checking out these classy and cool lounges.
Established in 1973 as The Smoke Shop, the now renamed Perfect Ash prides itself on being one of the finest tobacco shops in the Midwest and the only cigar shop in Minnesota currently owned by a Mexican woman. Diana Anaya bought the shop in 2014, and even though she is relatively new to the industry, she has staff members who have worked in the tobacco industry for decades.
It is indeed a fine shop. They have pipes and accessories as well as an expansive humidor stocked with premium and boutique cigars. And their customer service is top-notch, as they welcome each customer with gusto and assist you with whatever you need, whether you are experienced or a newbie. Did we mention the Lilydale Social Club next door is the only lounge in Minnesota where you can legally smoke and drink indoors? You’ll have a wonderful time here and instantly feel at home, as if you’re catching up with old friends.
809 Sibley Memorial Highway
Lilydale, MN 55118
Anthony’s Cigar and Pipe Lounge
This lounge has everything you need for a quality afternoon smoking a cigar with new friends in the establishment’s comfortable chairs. It boasts a well-stocked humidor and more than 40 unique pipe tobacco blends, as well as pipes and humidors from Don Salvatore and countless accessories. Another big plus is that they offer samples, and the employees are always willing to offer advice and help.
Anthony’s Cigar and Pipe Lounge
907 W. Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55408
Stogies on Grand
961 Grand Ave.
Saint Paul, MN 55105
Burn Premium Cigar Specialists
409 W. Burnsville Parkway
Burnsville, MN 55337
Want to explore the great Minnesotan outdoors while enjoying a smoke? Try these beautiful spots.
Gooseberry Falls State Park in Two Harbors
Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis
Lake Harriet in Minneapolis
Perfect Ash photos by Robert Wagner
Want to learn more about tabacco taxes and the FDA? Click here and here.
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Best Cigar Bars In Minnesota
(credit: Jupiter Images)
Minnesota’s smoking ban was enacted in 2005, forever changing the landscape, and smell, of local bars and lounges. But cigars are different; a more charming activity that doesn’t require you to shiver out in the cold trying to light your last Marlboro. A good cigar bar is a relaxing place, a lounge in which to enjoy the distinct, subtle flavors of the world’s best tobacco. People all over the world enjoy cigars, but in Minnesota, the blue smoke at these bars is better than all the rest. Enjoy a good puff, take a box home or find the perfect gift at these world-class emporiums.
809 Sibley Memorial Highway
West St. Paul, MN 55118
Just outside of St. Paul, this one-of-a-kind tobacco shop and cigar lounge has a gorgeous location tucked into the beautiful bluffs around the Mississippi River Valley. But while the scenery is nice, the place that tags itself “That Tobacco Place” is more importantly the place you want to go for some of the best cigars in the state. The store caters to rookie cigar smokers, those just looking for a gift and experts alike. And if you’re one that appreciates a good view, Perfect Ash does have outdoor benches on which to enjoy your surroundings.
Little Havana Tobacco Inc.
201 Jackson St #101
Anoka, MN 55303
With a name like Little Havana, the bar is set pretty high for cigars. In a beautiful, historic building in downtown Anoka, you’ll find not only high-quality cigars, but a clean, comfortable place to enjoy them. Relax on one of the plush couches, or strike up a conversation with the tobacco enthusiast in the common area. The family-owned business will make you feel right at home, and will happily answer any questions you might have. With cigars available in all price ranges, from casual smoker to top of the line, and a classy place to kick back and smoke, Little Havana certainly does its name justice.
Stogies On Grand
961 Grand Ave.
St Paul, MN 55105
This renovated former home makes for one of the best places to enjoy a cigar. Stogies on Grand evokes old school elegance in a busy shopping district; a place to step away from the Grand Avenue shoppers and relax with a world-class cigar and good company. Known nationally as one of the very best cigar bars, Stogies is the only Minnesota cigar bar to be awarded the “Diamond Crown Lounge” from the J.C. Newman Company, the nation’s oldest premium cigar maker. Three separate lounges in which to relax and a fantastic patio with overhanging trees and brick underfoot will further enhance your cigar smoking experience in the middle of the city.
Related: Local Man Turns Cigar Passion Into Thriving Business
Golden Leaf Tobacco
277 7th St. W.
St Paul, MN 55102
In the heart of the West 7th Street nightlife district in St. Paul, Golden Leaf is a beautiful, comfortable place to relax with a tasty cigar. Just a hint of delicious tobacco hangs in the air of the turn of the century building, and there are private smoking rooms for you to try out the extensive selection of cigars and pipe tobacco. On warm summer nights, there’s nothing better than sitting outside of Golden Leaf with a cigar in hand and watching the bustle of West 7th go by. Especially popular on nights when the Wild play at the nearby Xcel Energy Center, this is the lively alternative to the often stuffy cigar bar model.
17643 Minnetonka Blvd.
Minnetonka, MN 55391
The friendliest staff in town will help you find the perfect cigar, and this clean, well-ventilated store calls for you to enjoy it there. A larger lounge is available for smoking parties, which are especially nice during cold Minnesota winters. Serving the western suburbs, Cigar Jones is the cigar bar you want in your neighborhood. Not only does it feature an incredible selection of cigars and comfortable surroundings in which to smoke them, but the staff will always remember you and make this spot your own tobacco-based “Cheers.”
Related: Cigar Bars Hope Ordinance Doesn’t Snuff Them Out
Adrian Schramm is a resident Saint Paul writer with a passion for all things local. Through his work with Saint Paul Almanac and Minneapolis Examiner at Examiner.com, as well as in the kitchens of bars and restaurants around town, he has discovered what truly makes the Twin Cities tick.
Minneapolis cigar club
.Bolivar's \u0026 Bourbon - London Cigar Club
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