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Cigar Insider: David Ze of Tin Tin’s Cigar Bar

17 Jun 2010

[Editors’ Note: The following is a guest article authored by Chris Verhoeven, a friend of who is studying at Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam.]

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down and enjoying an Oliva Serie O Maduro with the owner/operater of Tin Tin’s Cigar Bar, David Ze, in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. We talked about cigars and the all-to-present encroachment of anti-smoking laws, which certainly stretch beyond U.S. borders.

David Ze of Tin Tin's Cigar BarTin Tin’s is currently the only cigar bar in The Netherlands, a feat made possible by Ze’s efforts to maintain opposition to the laws within the court system, as well as by being the sole employee of the bar. Recent developments, however, have changed the status quo for Dutch smokers and made life more difficult for those who wish to preserve the tradition.

I had a conversation with Ze between the hustle and bustle of his lively, leather couch-equipped establishment. Among other things, we talked about the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the crosshairs of government regulation.

Stogie Guys: Do you remember your first cigar?

David Ze: I remember it was about 16 years ago. I can’t recall what brand it was. One of the Dutch ones.

SG: Do you have a favorite cigar?

DZ: Not really, too many good smokes. Depends on the hour of the day, what you had for dinner…When it’s 11 in the morning you don’t start with a Romeo y Julieta Churchill. You just don’t do that (laughs).

SG: What made you decide to open a cigar bar?

DZ: As a consumer I thought it was something missing in Holland. When I was in the Caribbean and the U.S. it was normal to have a cigar bar. These laws…People in the Netherlands think that around the world you can’t smoke. But even in the U.S. there are places like this. A nice place to have something to smoke and a nice drink.

SG: As a bar owner, what do you find you like to recommend drinks to pair with a fine cigar?

DZ: In the European Union people are used to drinking cognac and whiskey, but I like to advise them on rum. It’s more unknown here.

SG: Tell us a little bit about the Dutch smoking laws and how you and your bar are impacted by them.

DZ: It’s very easy. If you have a premises with a liquor license you are touched by the laws. There were some court cases where places with one owner and no staff were left out of it. [But] there was a high court ruling recently that said businesses like me, you’re not allowed to smoke anymore. The thing is, we’re going to have elections with a new government and things can change again. So if a government civil servant comes in now and gives me a fine I can take my case to court and see what happens.

In our less structured conversation, it was apparent that the change in the laws was frustrating Ze. “If you’re a vegetarian, there’s no reason to go to the butcher,” he says. But, joking aside, Ze stated that the recent court case truly has made things more difficult by changing the previous “safe work environment” laws to more strict “health code” laws, under which he currently operates under the constant threat of fines.

Ze finds intrigue in the creative measures cigar bar owners take to help secure their livelihood. He is inspired by a bar on one of the French-owned islands that was able to have their establishment declared an embassy with “sovereign soil,” on which the French smoking laws have no authority. Ze aspires to such autonomy and vows to continue to fight for the freedom to enjoy cigars in The Netherlands.

Chris Verhoeven

photo credit: Stogie Guys

3 Responses to “Cigar Insider: David Ze of Tin Tin’s Cigar Bar”

  1. Padronnie Thursday, June 17, 2010 at 12:09 pm #

    I love this line:

    "If you’re a vegetarian, there’s no reason to go to the butcher!”

  2. Alexander de Medici Friday, July 2, 2010 at 12:30 am #

    Tin Tin's is great. And Dave is a great host.

  3. Don Fernando Monday, August 2, 2010 at 2:56 am #

    Guys, you misspelled David's last name. It is Zee (with double e), not Ze.