Don't hold your breath waiting for Cuban cigars

  • In this March 1, 2013 file photo, a worker selects cigars at the H. Upmann cigar factory, where people can take tours as part of the annual Cigar Festival.

    In this March 1, 2013 file photo, a worker selects cigars at the H. Upmann cigar factory, where people can take tours as part of the annual Cigar Festival. AP PHOTO

 
 
Updated 12/18/2014 2:12 PM
Mike Gold is the suburban tobacco distributor quoted in this article. His name has been corrected.

Mike Gold doesn't expect to sell his first Cuban cigar for at least a year, and possibly much longer.

Gold, a suburban distributor and president of Northbrook-based Arango Cigar Co., said individuals visiting Cuba will be allowed to bring home up to $100 of tobacco and/or liquor much sooner -- the same as from any other country.

 

However, as far as the commercial importing of cigars goes, the legal obstacles are going to be much more complicated, Gold said.

One of the issues is that brand names for which Cuba holds the world trademark are in conflict with U.S.-recognized trademarks for cigars made in the Dominican Republic.

Such conflicts will inevitably lead to lawsuits, Gold said.

"That won't be resolved for years," he added.

Furthermore, that process won't even start until the debate between President Barack Obama and Republicans in Congress on normalizing relations with Cuba in the first place have been worked out, Gold said.

He referenced U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's stated intention to fight Obama's actions.

As far as the reputed quality of Cuban cigars, it's currently more mystique than fact, Gold said, although he said Cuban companies are working to return to their former glory days.

But the lure of the forbidden Cuban cigar has always had as much to do with its desirability in the U.S. as its quality, he added.

There's little doubt that when Cuban cigars are able to be sold legally, there will be a buzz in the market, Gold said. But within a few years they will settle into their own niche of those who truly prefer them, he predicts.

While Gold always believed the economic restrictions on Cuba would be lifted one day, he said he's won a lot of bets that it wouldn't happen within five years of the date of the bet.

The Arango Cigar Co., which distributes to local shops like The Cigar Lounge in Schaumburg, began in 1932. Gold's family bought the company in 1977 and he's been president since 1981.

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