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The Cigar Inn, “Your Smoke and Drink of Choice”

The Cigar Inn, “Your Smoke and Drink of Choice”

Alison Lysakowski

The Cigar Inn, located in Belleville, is our area’s premier jazz and cigar bar.  Non-smokers and smokers alike can commune in its classy, cozy atmosphere with a full bar for a nice drink or two, or maybe even a few.  With their 25 choices of malt scotches- being the largest scotch bar in the area- and tasty martinis, beers, wines, rums, gins, vodkas, and more, there is plenty to keep your palate busy and your nerves relaxing.

Unwinding is easy at The Cigar Inn.  One step through the door, you can already tell that you are in for a comfortable night.  You pass a beautiful mosaic wall on your way downstairs to where the party is.  A cozy atmosphere, the lighting is pleasantly dim, yet bright enough to read a book.  With the brick walls and lower level setting, you will feel the homey effect of being in an underground club.  Various forms of art are seen everywhere, from mini-sculptures on side tables to photography hung on the wall, sparking creative thoughts.  Displaying beautiful art is important to The Cigar Inn.  There is also a big-screen TV.  Inviting couches and easy chairs surround a large coffee table, making it ideal for everyone to socialize and make new friends.  Smoking is permitted, and there are over 150 premium cigar choices on site.

Beyond the bar and lounge area, it is showtime.  Tables and chairs fill the area facing the stage, where on Friday nights, you will enjoy the rhythmic and therapeutic sounds of live jazz music.  Outside there is a patio, where you can enjoy the breeze and hear the jazz music through the front door.

The owner, Charles (Chuck) Hess, says jazz music is his main focus here.  Live or not, jazz is played there every night.  Chuck got into jazz when he was 18 and serving in the Air Force as an air crew member.  His roommate was a big jazz fan; and since Chuck had roots in similar music because of what his parents listened to while he was growing up, he then became immersed in jazz.  In 1995, while he served in Bahrain, he tried his first cigar and quickly became turned on to them.  Little did he know what his personal interests would one day culminate to be!  After 22 years, he retired from the Air Force and began his big project, The Cigar Inn, in 2007.  In 2009, he assumed full ownership.

Jack Lane Trio at the Cigar Inn

Robert and Dave, enjoying pairings of scotch and fine cigars.

“My goal is to bring a venue to Belleville where we can have a nice, eclectic mix of folks here- jazz and cigars, no matter what your station in life is, cigars will bring you together. Black, white, green, brown, financial status; commonality is that cigar and drink. Enjoy the jazz, a great conversation, and your choice of smoke.”

The St. Louis and Metro-East areas are saturated with phenomenal jazz musicians. There are about 15 bands in The Cigar Inn’s live rotation. A lot of these players are serious students of music. Most of them have their master’s degrees. They have worked hard to orchestrate a quality performance wherever they go, and Chuck is honored to have all of them take time to play at his establishment. He gets calls from bands every day, trying to get a spot on his stage, and his schedule is usually booked 2-3 months in advance.

In addition to centering on jazz music, Saturday nights are for karaoke. Also, Chuck creates a $12 special every Wednesday: a certain scotch paired with a certain cigar, a different pairing every week. People like to stop in for that. Wednesday is also Chess Night. On rotating Thursdays during the summer, he hosts Bike Night, and during the winter, Thursday is NFL Night. Most clientele range from late 20’s to middle age, but everyone 18 and older is welcome.

During one of my own visits, I briefly interviewed a Lindenwood student (Belleville) named Chris, who tries a new cigar every week, and he said it was his first visit at The Cigar Inn. He had been at Oktoberfest downtown, walked by the Inn, and wanted to try it. He says it feels like a “relaxed, laid-back place to hang out and de-stress.”

The tea candles on the tables by the stage contribute to the relaxed, even romantic, atmosphere. You can come for the music or just to chill. Use music for inspiration; feel free to bring a notebook, sketch pad, or reading material. Hang out with your friends. Grab a drink and a smoke in a chill place.

Keeping The Cigar Inn up and running is no arbitrary decision of Chuck’s. It is something very close to his heart. “It’s not a hobby, it’s a passion. I love cigars and I love jazz.”

Cigar Inn Jazz Club

Who: Charles “Chuck” Hess
Where: 119 West Main Street, Belleville IL
When: Wednesday – Thursday, 6-11pm; Friday – Saturday, 6pm-1am
How: CigarInn.net/ ~ 618-233-4000
Web: Vat19.com

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