ROSWELL, Ga. — A recent vote by the Roswell City Council has paved the way for cigar lounges to open in the city.
On Feb. 10, the council unanimously voted to approved the first reading of an amendment to the city’s code of ordinances to add cigar lounges. Councilwoman Marie Willsey was not in attendance at the meeting, and council members Matt Judy and Matthew Tyser recused themselves from the vote.
The ordinance amendments are a stricter version of Alpharetta’s existing cigar lounge ordinance, said Councilman Mike Palermo.
To ensure that not any establishment or restaurant could call itself a cigar lounge, the ordinance states more than 51 percent of sales must come only from handmade cigar sales. Additionally, over 70 percent of gross sales must come from handmade cigars and cigar-related products.
Several products are not permitted for sale in cigar lounges, including any vape products, cigarettes, unrolled or loose tobacco, hookah products and machine rolled tobacco products.
Although the mayor typically only votes when the City Council vote is tied, Mayor Lori Henry said plainly that she is not supportive of the amendments.
“I have a fundamental issue with it,” she said. “This is a cigar lounge, which seems fairly innocuous, however, my question is, what would stop us from having a chardonnay and cigarette lounge? Maybe a merlot and marijuana longue?... I see us on a slippery slope with this.”
Palermo pointed out that just a few years ago, allowing craft beer and wine companies in Roswell was controversial. Now, several craft beer companies have cropped up in the city.
Palermo said he supported the diversification of businesses as long as they follow the laws in an orderly manner.
“I want to make sure that we are not becoming something where we are just restaurants after restaurants and, instead, looking at opportunities,” he said.
The cigar lounge amendments also include regulations, such as a maximum capacity of 40 people, a filtration system exceeding 98 percent efficiency and that establishments not be located within 100 yards of another cigar lounge.
The mayor and council added a few other restrictions, including that cigar lounges must have the same hours of operation as stores selling alcohol that they cannot be located in a parcel that borders suburban residential.
Henry, who live adjacent to the Historic District, also asked staff to look at restrictions for cigar lounges near areas that may be considered residential but not suburban residential.
“We are not all suburban residential,” she said.
The amendments may change further depending on the second reading, which the City Council is expected to discuss at the March 9 City Council meeting.