Taxes close the door for a cigar business

For the past 14 years, cigar connoisseurs could go into the Uptown Cigar Company to smoke and socialize with others who shared a passion for the stogie.

That will all change at the end of the month, when owner Michelle Tuchman closes the doors to her Uptown business.

Tuchman said state tobacco taxes are forcing her to abandon her retail store at 32 John St. and move her Internet business to Florida, where she will be able sell her products free from the high excise taxes New York state levies.

Uptown Cigar Company

“The rising costs of doing business here in New York no longer allows me to offer my customers a competitive experience and we are forced to move our thriving business to Florida, where the accumulated taxes and fees are reasonable,” Tuchman said in a press release announcing her decision.

She said an expected 44 percent increase in the state excise taxes —- to 90 percent from the current 46 percent —- is simply more than she, or her customers, are willing to pay.

“We want to support local businesses and my customers have been doing that for 14 years. When there was a 20 percent excise tax, people were OK; when it went to 37 percent, it was a little more difficult; and when it went to 46 percent, we really started to feel it in terms of sales,” she said.

There is no way her business would be able to survive if the excise tax is increased to 90 percent as proposed in Gov. David Paterson’s budget, Tuchman said.

Excise taxes are levied against all tobacco products sold in New York state from businesses in the state. The tax is not levied against those products sold on the Internet from locations outside the state, Tuchman said.

“If you buy something on the Internet, no matter where it’s from, if they don’t have a location in New York, you don’t have to pay taxes. … So New York state cigar smokers, if they buy from the Internet … don’t have to pay taxes.”

While her customers will still be able to purchase their cigars from her — and at a price that will be less than they currently pay — they will lose the social experience her smoke shop has offered and she, the friends she’s made.

“These people are just really wonderful and they come from all walks of life. Whether they’re Democrat or Republican, blue collar, white collar, when they enter my store it doesn’t matter. They’re there to enjoy a cigar and invariably solve all the world’s problems,” she said. “I’m grateful for the years I’ve had, I’m thrilled with the friends I’ve made. I have become enriched immeasurably in my life just from the people who have come in.”

Tuchman said she will close her retail store June 30. Israel Markevitz, also known as Uptown Isy, the business manager, will move with the business to West Palm Beach, Fla.

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