Jackson — For nearly six years, Cigars Under the Stars has given business folks a chance to mix and mingle at hot spots around the metro area on Thursday nights, merry-making while smoking their favorite cigars or trying out the latest brand.
“This weekly event has been so successful because people think about fun and camaraderie when they think about cigars, and because it’s been a great meeting place for business professionals to make new contacts, new friends and have a good time with their old friends,” said Ralph Foster, owner and general manager of the Habana Smoke Shoppe in Jackson, which created Cigars Under the Stars.
The event generally begins around 5:30 p.m. with a cash bar and, if space allows, a band and dance floor. It moves monthly to a different restaurant or nightclub, with establishments providing free food samplings. “Some are so generous, it makes a meal,” said Robbie Bell, vice president of business development for the Mississippi Business Journal.
Last month, Cigars Under the Stars was held at Jake’s Seafood Grill on Old Canton Road in Ridgeland, owned by Chris Jacobs. “It was a great social event where everybody came out and had a good time,” said floor manager William Head. “Some people smoked cigars and some didn’t, but everybody liked the music and food and atmosphere. It was also good for us because we got people who hadn’t been here before and it gave them a chance to try us out, where they normally might not have come in.”
On Cigar nights, Jake’s business flipped from 75% restaurant and 25% bar to 75% bar and 25% restaurant, said Head. “The only thing that was sometimes difficult was the parking lot filled up fast because people usually came from work so everyone was in their own car,” he said.
Cigars Under the Stars originated with a few cigar lovers sitting in Habana Smoke Shoppe at its old location, talking about how the storeowners should organize a monthly cigar event. After a few organized evening events, they decided to take the show on the road.
“It turned into such fun that we do it every Thursday of the year except Thanksgiving and the last three weeks of December,” said Foster. “In fact, the whole year’s scheduled out and there’s a waiting list for people who want to host it at their location. But we kind of stay with those we’ve had good luck with.”
In March, Cigars Under the Stars will be held at Two O’Clock Bayou. In April, it will move to Hal & Mal’s, and in May, the Jackson Hilton will host the event, probably around its swimming pool and cabana again. The Cheetah Lounge will host Cigars in June, then Phillips on the Reservoir will host it in July, and it moves to Old Venice in August.
“September is still up in the air,” said Foster. “We’ve got three venues — The Steam Room, Que Sera and Julep (Restaurant & Bar) — that are looking at that particular month.”
In October, Stars will return to the Jackson Hilton. Stone Pony will host the event in November.
“The first week in December is a very special week,” said Foster. “Habana Smoke Shop will select from among 60 to 70 Angels on the Tree at Northpark Mall and distribute them to our good customers. We’ll also have a Cigars Under the Stars event that first Thursday night in December at Stone Pony for Toys for Tots. Folks who want to participate bring a toy for a tot.”
Cigars Under the Stars isn’t a men’s only club. More women have been popping up, with some of them taking a dare smoking a cigar. “Right now, probably 10% to 12% of our business is with women and it’s growing,” said Foster.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.