McClure is the vice president of Hospitality Holdings, a New York City-based enterprise that owns and operates a number of public-focused venues and businesses that, according to the company slogan, are among “New York’s most refreshingly civilized places to meet.” One of the most prominent among them is the Carnegie Club. A smoking man’s man cave to end all smoking mens’ man caves, this cocktail and cigar lounge par excellence is so-named because it sits midtown on 56th Street, directly behind New York’s legendary Carnegie Hall.
The Carnegie Club might currently be the most high-profile smoking club in New York City, but it’s certainly not the first. The city has a long tradition of plush private warrens festooned with fine draperies and dark mahogany, exclusive clubrooms where captains of American industry baptized big deals with the clink of glasses and the curling smoke of fine cigars.
Since it opened its doors in 1996, The Carnegie Club has been actively recreating that tradition—albeit with a few distinctions. For one, the club is open to the public. “We like to give the public a private-club experience,” McClure explains of the Carnegie’s operating principle. Another difference is that the club welcomes women into its smoky confines.
Stepping into the Carnegie Club feels, as a native New Yorker might describe it, “like a million bucks.” Amid a decidedly gothic architectural milieu, patrons can sink relaxingly into a plush leather Chesterfield sofa, order a skillfully crafted premier cocktail and then select a rich, expertly rolled cigar from among the dozens the Carnegie Club offers its guests. And, make no mistake about it—at the Carnegie Club, the cigar is front and center. Gazing down from the club’s loft-like mezzanine level, one’s eyes fall upon a 15-foot-tall octagonal humidor that sits prominently in the center of the softly lit chamber. Showcased inside are some of the world’s most desirable cigars from cigar makers such as Davidoff and cigar-centric countries such as Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.
The room’s mood completes itself with ornate, hand-carved 18th-century bookcases and woodwork fashioned from reclaimed wood. Brass lighting fixtures illuminate a broad marble bar, and the club’s 20-foot-high ceilings offer a sense of airy spaciousness.
But the classic décor is only a part of what the Carnegie Club provides its guests: Every Saturday night for the past 17 years, the club has recreated that smoky, 1940s and 50s nightclub ambiance with an ever-popular “Sinatra” cabaret show, featuring “Old Blue Eyes” interpreter Steve Maglio and an 11-piece orchestra. “It transports you back to the experience of a bygone era,” McClure notes.
At its heart, however, as McClure describes it, the Carnegie Club is “about the ritual of smoking a cigar. Unlike cigarettes, a cigar has a ritualistic, celebratory feel to it. Whether you’re closing a business deal or celebrating an anniversary, there’s something unique about the experience.”