Smoke stifles liquor license approval for cigar shop

SEABROOK — Smoke got in the eyes of Planning Board members while they considered letting a cigar shop sell liquor to its customers, causing the board to put a hold on granting permission until the owner ensures the smell of cigars stops bothering neighbors.

Roy Kirby, owner of Two Guys Smoke Shop, went to Tuesday night’s Planning Board meeting hoping to gain approval to establish a cigar bar at his Lafayette Road retail store. The discussion was expected to revolve around the number of seats in the shop versus the number of parking spaces required if the store were to change from retail to lounge-like liquor service.

But when Planning Board members heard complaints from one of Kirby’s abutters that cigar smoke from the shop smells up his yard, the board took notice.

Before they consider granting Kirby permission to sell liquor at his store — which could possibly increase smoke in the shop — the board told Kirby he had to develop a plan and return for another hearing on Oct. 20 showing how he will stop cigar smoke from permeating the neighborhood.

Jim Sanborn, who lives about 150 feet from Two Guys Smoke Shop, said that especially during summer months, the smell is so offensive that he lives with the heat instead of opening up his windows.

“We can’t open our windows, and we don’t have air conditioning,” Sanborn told Planning Board members Tuesday night. “We suffer. We don’t smoke, and cigars (smell) worse than parliament cigarettes. (They should keep the smoke) inside and kill themselves, not me.”

Planning Board Chairwoman Susan Foote agreed. She’s smelled cigar smoke in the air in that neighborhood on hot, humid nights when the air stagnates, she said.

But when Kirby and his attorney, Mary Gantz, suggested the hearing was about getting approval to serve liquor and not about smoke, Planning Board members bristled.

“You don’t have the right to let odors leave your property to offend abutters,” said Vice Chairman Don Hawkins. “If you’re asking us to do something new in this store, we have the right to ask you to (do something that prevents the smoke bothering the neighbors).”

Foote said had the board known a cigar shop was going to lease the building when they were considering the project, the board would have discussed proper ventilation that would protect the neighborhood.

Foote also questioned how Kirby was already letting his customers bring and store their own bottles of brandy or Scotch in the store’s liquor cabinet so that they can smoke and have a drink while watching a big-screen TV with their friends. No one passed that piece of information by the Planning Board, and that can make a difference in the number of parking spaces needed at the store, she said. The original concept was for a cigar and magazine store, where patrons would go in and out quickly, lessening the need for spaces.

In a prior interview, Kirby said he had cleared the concept with the New Hampshire Liquor Commission and got an OK before he began the practice.

It’s a newly passed New Hampshire law that allows cigar stores to sell liquor to their customers, as long as they meet stringent requirements, Gantz said. Kirby is moving on the idea to increase business because things have been very slow because of the recession, he said.

“Basically, you’re saying it’s already going on, but (your customers) bring their own bottles,” Foote said. “Now you want to sell liquor so they can’t bring in their own (liquor).”

Kirby explained he’s not interested in creating a “bar atmosphere,” just a place where people can enjoy fine cigars and fine liquors, both of which he wants to sell.

New Hampshire’s new law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2010, and prevents the cigar bars that serve liquor from serving food or allowing cigarette smoking or minors on the premises. Sixty percent of sales must be from cigars or cigar-related products, and a humidor must be present.


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