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Cigar Lockers: Get ’Em Before They’re Too Hot

If the fruit of the vine isn’t quite your thing, a few establishments offer personal, humidor quality cigar lockers for the die-hard tobacco aficionados among us. And for the moment, at least, these are slightly easier to obtain.

About a block from the Treasury Department, Shelly’s Back Room (1331 F St. NW), a traditional “brown whisky and cigar” tavern with an interior that invokes a Minnesota log cabin, offers temperature- and humidity-controlled cedar boxes for $450 a year, said owner Bob Materazzi. Up to four patrons can share a box, though there’s a combined $35 additional fee for the third and fourth member.

The 96 oversized P.O. Box-style lockers bedecked with tobacco leaves bearing the name or moniker (some of the more amusing ones included “God Damn Hippies,” “Gun Toten’ Texans” and the highly mysterious “White House Res”) of each box’s lessee. In the past everyone from Michael Jordan to film director Francis Ford Coppola (don’t be fooled, his nameplate is now being used by another patron) to conservative yakker Rush Limbaugh has had a locker there.

“The box, I think, is the thing that kind of crowns the experience of going to Shelly’s,” explained former Rep. Al Swift (D-Wash.), a principal at Colling Murphy who has had a locker ever since the establishment opened seven years ago, though he also keeps a humidor in his Colling Murphy office, which is located upstairs in the same building. “Your cigars are never more than a few steps away.

“I don’t have anything in there that I can’t tell my wife or the police about,” the self-described “Macanudo man” quipped.

And while there were still a few boxes available on the top row as of last week, Materazzi expects to have a waiting list if the proposed ban on smoking in indoor working places, including bars and restaurants, is approved by the D.C. City Council, and he is able to obtain an exception. “If this smoking ban passes, I have a feeling we will sell them all out,” he said.

Finally, for a more urban scene, head to Ozio (1813 M St. NW), a cigar and martini bar not far from Dupont Circle, where images of the Rat Pack, Ann Sheridan and Bogie keep a watchful eye over the crowd of 20- and 30-something professionals, who flock to the lounge to puff Montecristos and Romeo y Julietas.

There, one of 48 locker-style humidors will set you back $750 a year (about eight were available as of last week). For the price, Ozio’s restocks favorite brands, and boxholders pay no cover charge. Plus, there’s the appeal of advertising one’s claim to a small piece of real estate in a joint that’s attracted the likes of Bono, Prince and Vince Vaughn. Now that’s class.

— Bree Hocking

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