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WORCESTER— The view is the first thing a visitor to the Owl Club notices.

Located on the fourth floor of 5 Pleasant St., around the corner from the venerable Owl Shop at 416 Main St., a member of the private club can look out the window and get a true bird's-eye look at downtown Worcester.

"This is like having your own living room downtown," Owl Shop owner George Photakis said several weeks ago as the final touches were being made to the approximately 2,400-square-foot club that features leather chairs and couches, four — soon to be five — large plasma televisions, pool table, poker table, numerous board games and an area where members will be able to use their computer.

An open house at the Owl Club will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. today and will feature food from a local restaurant and cigar rolling by Jesus Fuego. He is a former master blender for cigar makers Rocky Patel and Camacho, who is now making his own cigars under the J. Fuego label, according to store manager Zack Photakis.

The open house will also have a "tasting" of the J. Fuego cigars, Zack Photakis said.

The idea for a private club for cigar and pipe aficionados was first discussed years ago by George Photakis and his son, the late John G. Photakis, who owned the 61-year-old tobacco store with his father.

Both Zack, 25, who is John's son, and George Photakis, 85, said the move to open the Owl Club gained impetus in recent years when customers expressed an interest in having a private spot where they could have a cocktail, smoke a cigar and watch a ball game.

There are two benches near the front window of the Owl Shop where people can smoke tobacco products.

Membership applications for the Owl Club are available at the Owl Shop, and a board of directors George Photakis said will be comprised of Owl Shop staffers will vote on club admission. It will be open from 9 a.m. to midnight Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays. The club will not be staffed by any employees.

The cost of a membership is $60 a month or $600 a year. A $10 guest fee would have to be paid. Members and guests must be at least 25 years old, according to the membership application.

Members of the club will get a key for an elevator that will take them to the fourth floor and another key-like card that will get them into the club, which also features a wall of 12 inch by 12 inch mahogany humidors capable of holding several boxes of cigars, George Photakis said.

Events like cigar samplings, private dinners and informational seminars will be held throughout the year.

Members will also be able to consume alcoholic beverages that will be stored at the club and they will be able to bring food, said the elder Photakis, who declined to say how much it cost to refurbish the space into the Owl Club.

While there are cigar lounges in Central Massachusetts, George Photakis said the idea of a private club that would have a board of directors, house rules, as well as articles and bylaws, is rare in this part of the country.

"This is a relatively new concept," George Photakis said.

Zack Photakis said his research shows the nearest similar club is run by the Metropolitan Society in Oak Ridge, N.J., which charges $410 a year for an associate membership, according to its Web site.

The younger Photakis said, to the best of his knowledge, there are no similar clubs in the Boston area. A spokesman for Cigar Masters in Boston said the business has a lounge that hosts a variety of events including corporate gatherings, for which there is a $500 charge.

Zack Photakis said the plan is to eventually have about 100 members.

The club was scheduled to open in April, but was delayed primarily because furniture that was ordered had not arrived, Zack Photakis said.

"It's been a long, long haul," he said Tuesday. "But beginning Thursday, we're good to go and we'll be open for members."

Zack Photakis said he's confident the Owl Club will have 100 members.

"I guarantee it," he said. "It's really great for networking," he said while agreeing with George Photakis's assessment that the private club will be a place for people with similar interests to congregate at a spot that will have many of the comforts of home.

"As soon as we're open, we're going to fill up," Zack Photakis said.

Source: Worcester Telegram