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The Stogies Keep On Smoking at Maduro Cigar Bar

By Pamela Sosnowski

No smoking signs are common sights now throughout American bars and restaurants, but at Maduro Cigar Bar in downtown Madison, patrons are invited to light up- provided it's a stogie or pipe and not a cigarette. Maduro's owner explains its unique appeal.

Most American establishments prohibit smoking, but at Maduro Cigar Bar in Madison, the pungent smell of stogie (and pipe) smoke permeates the air on a nightly basis. Since 1997, the downtown bar has invited cigar and pipe aficionados to puff away and enjoy a cocktail or beer while relaxing in the lounge's cushy leather seating and listening to music. (Cigarette smoking is not permitted, and the bar undertook legal steps to allow cigar and pipe smoking.)

With its high tin ceilings, exposed brick, and leather seating, Maduro's atmosphere has a retro, Rat Pack-era vibe to it and is located in an historic building. (One review on Yelp reads, "Going to Maduro is like going to your grandpop's place if he's a gent that smokes like a chimney, listens to cool tunes and has a crazy collection of digestifs for sipping.") Manager Vanessa Shipley explains the unique venue's appeal: "Many people enjoy relaxing with a cigar, and there's no better place to do that than a cigar bar. The crowd is obviously cigar friendly, and there is an instant bond that cigar smokers share that often leads to conversation and new friends."

Fifteen percent of Maduro's revenue must come from cigar sales in order to keep it operating. Patrons can bring their own cigars, or purchase one of over 30 varieties that Maduro sells. "What people want from a cigar differs person to person," says Shipley. "Do they want a cigar with mild flavors, or something more spicy and intense? Do they want a cigar to smoke for 20 minutes or an hour? We work with the customers to find a cigar that will be the most enjoyable for their palate."

Maduro does not serve food, but customers are allowed to bring food in, and many neighboring restaurants in the downtown area will make deliveries to the cigar bar. What the bar does focus on is an extensive liquor menu featuring over 50 whiskeys, 19 beers on tap, and several types of gin, rum, port, tequila, and more. Several creative house cocktails are also very popular with the crowd.

A DJ spins tunes on weekend nights, and patrons report online that the volume is just loud enough to enjoy the music, but not so overbearing that it drowns out conversations. Although Maduro typically opens after 4 PM most days year round, it expanded its hours for the summer, opening at 12 noon on Saturdays during the season. The bar's outdoor patio makes catching a summer breeze and savoring a stogie all the more delightful for its customers.

"We get all sorts of people in here, young to old, from all walks of life," says Shipley. "It's a place to chill, and also a great place to celebrate a birthday or other significant date."

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