June 15, 2005
Tinder Box Internationale is a long, narrow store lined with humidified glass cabinets showcasing a vast selection of premium stogies. The cigars being offered for sale here are not inexpensive, but the store is not associated with Club Habana, so they aren't marked up either. Tinder Box Internationale is open until 11pm, so make sure you purchase enough to satisfy your jones into the early morning hours.
When your jacket pockets have been filled to capacity with tobacco treasures, climb the stairs to find Club Habana's 10-seat bar. If the bar is crowded or you desire more secluded seating, head left into the three small rooms furnished with small tables; padded velvet chairs; and long, soft sofas. Let your eyes adjust to the sultry, dark environs before ordering one of the specialty martinis or some of the smooth, aged Scotch listed on the menu. Personally, I'm a less-sophisticated social drinker, and I spent the evening partaking of the locally brewed Palmetto Ale.
Upon arrival in Charleston, my friends and I had stopped into a local watering hole to grab a quick bite for lunch. I queried our friendly bartender for a rundown of the city's hot spots, and he told me that Club Habana would be full of scantily clad women later in the evening. While I did notice a few nicely dressed Southern belles in smallish cocktail dresses, the bar was mostly being occupied by small groups of 30-something males. All of Club Habana's employees are female, but hitting on the help almost always results in swift rejection. I also found the seating arrangements within the small rooms to be less conducive to mingling.
Typically, cigar bars with their smoky atmosphere are habitats catering to a mostly male clientele. Club Habana actively promotes their air filtration systems, which make the space attractive to smokers and their nonsmoking company. Since New York State instituted a smoking ban in public places, I've become less tolerant of cigar- and cigarette-friendly establishments. After a couple of hours, my eyes could no longer handle exposure to even the modestly smoke-filled room. That being said, if you are a social smoker or enjoy a higher-class bar experience, Club Habana is probably your kind of place.
From journal A Charming Place Called Charleston