Wal and Ben Baranow recently announced that after 10 years, Baranows Lounge will be closing at 4pm on December 31, 2014. You can read Wal and Ben’s statement here. Baranows is an iconic cigar destination in Hawthorne, Victoria. The lounge itself was known for well aged Cuban cigars, an unparallelled whiskey and spirits selection, friendly staff and a welcoming atmosphere. Cigar smokers across Australia would travel to Baranows for a cigar with friends and it was a destination for international guests.
Wal and Ben both cite continuing indoor smoking regulations, economic pressures and increased tobacco regulations as all factors in their decisions to close the lounge. They also announce in their statement that they will be opening a new venue on that site in 2015. It is unclear what that venue will be, but it is safe to say that it will not include indoor cigar smoking.
This is a big blow to the cigar community in Australia, who already have very few venues to get together and have a cigar. Baranows was a staple for 10 years and gave a place for people to connect over a cigar. Such a closure will further splinter the cigar community and reinforce the individual nature of smoking cigars in Australia. I had the opportunity to go to Baranows with a friend roughly six months ago. I had a wonderful time with my La Aurora Double Corona as my friend and I sat for a good two hours talking about cigars and talking about life in general. it was a wonderful time that you cannot get anywhere in Australia.
The closing of Baranows in Australia highlights the fragile nature of cigar smoking in this country. As more venues close due to economic and regulatory pressures, more Australians will go overseas to purchase cigars and smoke at their homes. Hopefully people will turn to forums like Friends of Habanos and begin to connect online. This will help fill the void left by B&M establishments shutting their doors.
It is a sad day for the cigar community in Australia. Let’s hope this is not the beginning of a series of venue and retail closures throughout the country.