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Smoking institution snuffed out

Inside the doors of the Davidoff boutique on Sherbrooke St., the spicy and full aroma of pipe tobacco is immediately noticeable.

There are few other places in Montreal where cigar enthusiasts can walk into a bedroom-sized humidor for their pick of high quality Cuban or Dominican specialties boutique, manager Vince Bourgoin said.

But a quarter-century after David Cigars Corporation of Canada, an importer of tobacco products, began operating the store, it has decided to close.

An overzealous expansion project, expensive rent, a decline in cigar smoking and government restrictions were some reasons Bourgoin gave for the closure.

Despite his imminent unemployment, Bourgoin was nonetheless all smiles yesterday, during the store's last official day as a haven for cigar and pipe aficionados.

"It's a sad thing, but having a long face isn't going to change anything," he said.

While last month's smoking ban did not affect Davidoff, which has a well-ventilated, enclosed smoking room, an earlier prohibition on the sale of items bearing tobacco company insignia definitely cut into the bottom line, Bourgoin said.

Scattered around Davidoff yesterday, there were pens, humidors and perfume boxes labelled with the luxury brand's moniker - all of which the boutique was no longer allowed to sell.

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Yvon Bastien walked into the store yesterday. As one of Davidoff's regular customers, he and Bourgoin are on a first-name basis.

Bastien entered the humidor, selected a cigar - he favours Dominicans - and joined four men already seated in the dark-wooded smoking room that was potent with fraternal camaraderie.

While women were welcome, Bourgoin said, men were usually the ones occupying the smoking room's leather armchairs.

Some of the men have been Davidoff patrons for seven years, others for 15. They came from all walks of life: artists, writers, government officials, businessmen, police chiefs and U.S. tourists in search of good quality Cuban cigars.

"There are no social barriers," Bastien said.

In the smoking room, you have the ability to leave the stress of the day-to-day job, said one of the cigar buddies who identified himself only as Peter "the Greek."

Bourgoin said that over the years, many famous people visited the boutique.

Robert De Niro would usually visit while in town and Steven Tyler from Aerosmith loved to buy expensive lighters, he said.

But when someone walked into the smoking room at Davidoff, they got treated just like everyone else, Peter added.

"There are lots of people that will be upset when the doors close," Bastien said.

"It's the end of an era," lamented one of his cigar brethren who refused to be named.

Source: Montreal Gazette