Dissipating Smoke

When Sherlock's Haven closes, the city's cigar and pipe smokers will lose one of their few public refuges

A reporter's informal survey of employees in four of the building's offices yielded a split vote on the Haven's presence. Workers in two firms described the smoke as annoying, in contrast to employees of two other businesses. In fact, Angelino Petrocelli, a nonsmoker who works in an 18th-floor law office, groused about the oily odors spewed by a Chinese restaurant on the building's back side. "That stuff smells much worse," he said. "The cigar smoke is kind of nice."

The edict that the Haven adopt a no-smoking policy snarled Pulvers' plans to sell to one of his employees, Jim Walker. The pair toured 10 possible alternative sites downtown but found the asking price too high or landlords unwilling to waive no-smoking bans. Still, even if they had located a space to their liking, they may have opted to simply let the Haven go dark. An initiative to boost the state's tobacco tax by 200 percent will appear on voter ballots in November; its approval could push independent tobacco shops to near-extinction in California.

"If that thing passes, there's probably no way we can afford to stay open either," says Jim Barron, co-owner of Grant's Tobacconist, the city's oldest such shop. "Marty might be getting out at the right time."

Marty Pulvers nurtured the Haven into one of the world's most respected tobacco shops.
James Sanders
Marty Pulvers nurtured the Haven into one of the world's most respected tobacco shops.

The Haven's regulars understand — or, more precisely, resent — the forces that persuaded Pulvers to bail. Their "brotherhood of tobacco," as Walker calls it, will fracture after June, and the gatherings at one another's houses for barbecues and big sporting events will wane. Calys, who has visited the shop for four years, figures he'll light up at the Occidental Cigar Club. "But it won't be quite the same," he says. "You can't re-create something like Sherlock's."

Pulvers, for his part, intends to continue scouring the planet for exotic pipes and tobaccos as a partner in an East Coast distribution firm. Yet while he won't miss fighting the tobacco wars, he knows he'll pine for the camaraderie of the Haven's regulars. Every so often, on a Friday afternoon, they break open a bottle of single-malt scotch. Glass in one hand, cigar or pipe in the other, they relish the wonders of leisure time.

"I love the give-and-take with customers," Pulvers says with a smile. "I'll probably end up asking Peet's for a part-time job."

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