I travelled the world and saw a lot of cigar lounges during my life as a cigar aficionado. But one of the most beautiful, and certainly the top lounge in our country, is Cigar Lounge 33 in the south of Brussels. Cigar Journal talked with its two founders, Philippe Denis and Jean-Baptiste Hakim.
“When I got my marketing diploma, the father of my best friend offered me an H.Upmann Sir Winston,” says Philippe Denis (54), a former automotive professional and cigar lover. He visited many lounges worldwide and finally decided to realize his dream: to quit the automobile business and open his own cigar lounge. One year later, his partner Jean-Baptiste Hakim (29) joined him. Together, they found a building in Rhode-Saint-Genèse, close to Waterloo. They spent a year rebuilding it and ended up with this particular lounge.
CJ: Why the south of Brussels?
“Because there’s nothing here for cigar lovers. It’s an affluent part of the city, and I wanted to have a place where people can park at the door. And my thinking proved right: we have already more than 200 members, coming from everywhere: France, the Netherlands, the Flemish part of the country….
CJ: How does it work here?
Philippe: “Our members pay a contribution of 1000€, but they get an 800€ voucher back to buy cigars, spirits, or accessories. Non-member clients pay a modest contribution of 15€ a day. That’s all to be in order with the strong Belgian legislation. Our bar is separated from the lounge. People have to get their drinks at the bar; we don’t serve.
Jean-Baptiste: “A a former mixologist, I joined Philippe and followed a ‘Habanos Specialist” course in Havana. Our clients are very open and smoke cigars from all over the world. So we also have a large offer of non-Cuban cigars, but every cigar is tested by us before it is put to sale in our walking humidor. We are very selective! Via Whatsapp, our members get to know what the new entries are that they can buy and store in their personal humidified locker. The lounge, with its 50 square meters, can host 25 persons. They sit in Chesterfields from the Buckingham Palace supplier.
CJ: A lot of cigar lounges work like yours, but what’s your “unique selling proposition”?
Philippe: “I think two things. First, our proper engagement in this enterprise. We are full-time available, having no wife nor children. Our child is this lounge, so this “personal touch” is very important. Second, the 50,000 holes in the floor and the ceiling of the smoking lounge. This very engineered ventilation system pushes the air through the perforations in the floor and sucks the smoke up by the perforations in the ceiling. So you can bring your wife; she won’t have her dress full of cigar smoke… With this approach, we have our weekends fully booked.”
In a country where many smoking lounges had to close due to strong legislation, Cigar Lounge 33 is a haven for cigar lovers. Their final words?
“We are there to receive you in our shop and lounge, in a luxurious yet laid-back ambiance, and share with you our passion for cigars. Cigar Journal readers, you are very welcome!
Everyday, except for Monday.
From Tuesday to Thursday: 12-22 hr.
Friday: 12-24 hr.
Saturday: 14h-24 hr.
Sunday: 14-19 hr.
Yearly contribution: 1000€ (voucher 800€ refund)
15 € for occasional visitors
Text and Photos: Ben Vinken