April 5, 2011 - 3:01 pm
In a tiny cigar shop on Fremont Street East, business thrives despite the economic downturn.
Lovo Cigars, 510 Fremont St., is a stone’s throw from the famed Fremont Street Experience canopy — a tourist magnet.
Store clientele ranges from homeless people and lawyers to doctors and politicians. But the number of tourists coming into the store has decreased, a sign of the times.
Store manager Dan Godding works 12 to 14 hours a day, six days per week. In that time, he sells 200-500 cigars daily. Prices average between $4 to $7 per cigar.
“Because of the economy, the walk-in business has gone down,” Godding said. “But it doesn’t hurt us this much. From November to February, when it’s kind of slow anyway, we’re doing a lot better this year than this time last year. The economy seems to be coming up. We’re getting more walk-ins than we used to.”
Godding is the man with the palette, a true cigar aficionado who helps customers perfect their puff.
Owner Marlo Ramaz, whose wife Egda is of the Lovo family, has been at the Fremont Street location for seven years. It’s a family business, where even customers pass down the tradition of cigar smoking from generation to generation.
“We have loyal business for many years,” Ramaz said.
Each cigar is hand-rolled by members of the Lovo family in a California warehouse, where they stuff each one with tobacco grown on their Nicaraguan plantation.
The store also specializes in Dominican blends.
Lovo has rolled cigars for celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman.
Although Ramaz’s store has been able to stay afloat — the downtown Las Vegas store is one of a franchise of stores that includes locations in Arizona and California — business has dropped 40-45 percent over the last five years.
Ramaz, who has been in the business for almost 30 years, said he blames the loss in business on the economy and Nevada’s clean indoor air act, which went into effect in 2006.
Casinos and other bar-type establishments that do not serve food remain exempt from the law. Restaurants, even those within casinos or gaming establishments, must remain smoke-free.
Smoking is not allowed in public and private schools, child care facilities with five or more children, grocery and convenience stores, retail establishments, video arcades, government buildings and movie theaters.
In November, the state Board of Health included the clean indoor air act within the food regulation process. The Southern Nevada Health District enforces provisions of the act and has the ability to cite individuals for smoking where prohibited.
It’s a $100 penalty for each violation.
“It kills a little bit of my income, to be honest,” Ramaz said. “The restrictions of cigars in casinos kills me, too. It’s getting worse. The economy helps that, too.”
Most casino floors have banned cigar smoking and will ask patrons to leave until they’ve finished their stogies, Ramaz added.
Regardless of the law, Godding said he has seen some bar owners let patrons smoke if food is served.
“Some of the bar owners in town took a chance of getting fined,” Godding said. “Most of these bars doing well are serving food, and they built on a bar to keep smoking.”
Buy it there, smoke it there is the motto at Lovo Cigars, Godding added.
“We have really great-tasting cigars for smokers at a great price,” he said. “There are specials every day.”
For more information about Lovo Cigars, 510 Fremont St., call 384-4427 or visit lovocigars.com.
Contact Downtown and North Las Vegas View reporter Kristi Jourdan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 383-0492.