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Written by Gary J. Arzt

Monday, 25 August 2008

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clubs and organizationstobacco legislation

Orlando, FL  ... Cigar Rights of America's "Freedom Ride," that began Tuesday evening at New York City's Hudson Terrace, ended in Orlando, FL at the Stirling Gallery at The Plaza, 127 S. Orange Avenue.

I joined a group of Miamians on a bus organized by Erik Espinoza of Espinoza y Ortega (think 601 and Cubao) and Aquiles Legra of Sabor Havana. We left from Sabor Havana's Doral store, and with but one stop at their West Palm Beach store to pick up another contingent of clients and Sabor partner In West Palm Beach, FL, Bart Espinosa, we wended our way to Orlando.

Front to back: Nimish Desai of Rocky Patel, Achille Legra of Sabor Havana, Miami, Gabby Miranda of Sabor Havana, Miami, Erik Espinosa of Espinosa y Ortega (601, Cubao)
Front to back: Nimish Desai of Rocky Patel, Aquiles Legra of Sabor Havana, Miami, Gabby Miranda of Sabor Havana, Miami, Erik Espinosa of Espinosa y Ortega (601, Cubao)
Among my fellow travelers was Nimish Desai, of Rocky Patel, Paul Hernandez, cigar rep and co-owner of Aromas of Havana in North Miami, Gabby Miranda partner at Sabor Havana, Doral, Rich Legra, Achilles' brother and business associate. Also on board was noted Miami designer, Peter Solis and his business partner, Lon Schwartz. Among other things, Lon, a long time cigar connoisseur, writes "The Collector" articles for Florida Cigar Snob. He and Peter made exquisite cigar ashtrays in the ‘90s, and if rumors are to be believed they will soon introduce the quintessential, elegant cigar ashtray for the 21st Century. Other clients a and managers of Sabor Havana rounded out our group.

"This is a great, great first step," said Michael Herklots, Manager of Davidoff of Geneva in New York City, who arranged the NYC kick-off, of the event attended by some 300 plus people. The event focused on the new organization, Cigar Rights of America (www.cigarrights.org ) created to protect the rights of cigar smokers while at the same time trying to put an end to the draconian anti-cigar laws and taxes that have been on our backs for almost a decade now.

The first tour took a group of cigar manufacturers, that included Litto Gomez, Nick Perdomo, Charlie Toraño, Manuel Quesada, Pete Johnson, Paolo Garzaroli, Jorge Padron, Jonathan Drew, Eric Newman, Robbie Levin, Carlos Fuente Sr. and Jr., Christian Eiroa, Ernesto Perez Carillo, Avo Uvezian, Jose Oliva, Rocky Patel, Tim Ozgener from NYC to Minneapolis to Milwaukee, Chicago and, finally, Orlando, to promote membership in the CRA. Keith Park, CEO of Prometheus and one of the key figures in launching the organization was also on the tour, but had to return to California after Chicago. Litto Gomez, of La Flor Dominicana, told me, "All the events had been very well attended - always 300 or more people. It has been a tiring week ... or maybe I'm more easily tired," he noted with a smile, under his ever present Panama hat.

We can report that the closing event, of the first leg of the "Freedom Tour" was equally successful, and this in spite of extremely unpleasant weather.

Guests were greeted upon arrival with a gift bag containing five (5) assorted cigars, a CRA "Freedom Tour" tee shirt, Cigar Press magazine, The Cigar Report magazine and a few other goodies. On the terrace outside the Gallery was not constantly inviting, as the rain that central Florida has been experiencing all week, due to Tropical Storm Fay, continued intermittently. Nonetheless, there was an excellent band outside; while inside there were hors d'oeuvres and an open bar. The attendees mingled with each other and indulged in conversation and picture taking with the cigar makers present.

Cigar Dave, Gary  J. Arzt, Carlito Fuente, Jr.
Cigar Dave, Gary J. Arzt, Carlito Fuente, Jr.
The ubiquitous, Cigar Dave was present, looking very well and very enthusiastic about the turn out.

Later in the evening, which began at 8:00 PM, there were brief remarks made by some of the tabaqueros, all focused on promoting the organization and its purpose.

After the remarks concluded, the mingling and conversation continued and an auction was held. Among the lots were selected boxes from each of the manufacturers, as well as ‘mystery boxes of very special cigars from several of the manufacturers. The bidding was enthusiastic and heavily participated in, and a tidy sum was raised to benefit the CRA.

When I wrote about the founding of the CRA on 5 June, I explained that it was the logical outgrowth of an effort by these same cigar makers to fend off the most onerous tax ever conceived by a tax and spend congress; to wit, the SCHIPS tax, which was proposed last Spring and will raised again when the Congress reconvenes after Labor Day. The SCHIPS tax as proposed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would have put companies that are run by third and fourth generation cigar makers out of business.

The mention of the SCHIPS tax being proposed by those two democrat leaders is not a casual comment. Tax legislation goes through the House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Rep. Charles Rangel (dem., NY) and the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. Max Baucus (rep., MT). This legislation did not go that route. The two leaders took it to the floor in their respective chambers ... in an effort to appeal to their esoteric, left leaning, anti-pleasure constituencies!

I can do the cigar smoker no greater service than to echo the remarks of all the cigar makers; we must protect our rights and the way to do it is Cigar Rights of America. So, if you haven't attended one of the "Freedom Tour" events and your tobacconist doesn't have any brochures yet, log on to www.cigarrights.org and spend the most important thirty dollars ($30) you may ever spend.

We have to do this; no one is going to do this for us. And, left to their own devices, the United States Congress will tax most of these iconic cigar makers out of existence!

Do it and do it now!

Pictures from the Cigar Rights of America Freedom Tour Event in Orlando FL, August 22, 2008

Avo Uvezian and Jeffrey Borysiewicz, owner of Corona Cigar Company Don Carlos Fuente, Sr. Jonathan Drew, Drew Estate
Avo Uvezian and Jeffrey Borysiewicz, owner of Corona Cigar Company Don Carlos Fuente, Sr. Jonathan Drew, Drew Estate
Litto Gomez, La Flor Dominicana, Matt, Bart Espinosa, Sabor Havana, West Palm Beach Noted Miami Designer, Peter Solis and Lon Schwart Paul Hernandez, owner of Aromas of Cuba
Litto Gomez, La Flor Dominicana, Matt, Bart Espinosa, Sabor Havana, West Palm Beach Noted Miami Designer, Peter Solis and Lon Schwartz Paul Hernandez, owner of Aromas of Cuba
Paul Hernandez, owner of Aromas of Havana, buying cigars at Corona Cigar Co. at retail! CRA crowd at Stirling Gallery CRA guests at Corona Cigar Company
Paul Hernandez, owner of Aromas of Havana, buying cigars at Corona Cigar Co. at retail! CRA crowd at Stirling Gallery CRA guests at Corona Cigar Company
CRA guests at Corona Cigar Company Corona Cigar Company store Corona Cigar Company store
CRA guests at Corona Cigar Company Corona Cigar Company store Corona Cigar Company store



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