In 1996 Shareef Malink opened Cuba Club, an upscale private cigar smoker’s club, catered towards celebrities with a member’s only-humidor room, and full-service bar and restaurant that were open to the public. Back in the day the club’s temperature- and humidity-controlled walk-in humidor contained private locked-boxes with names such as Sylvester Stallone, Quentin Tarantino, Matt Dillon, Madonna, Marvin Shanken and August Busch IV engraved on them.
The cozy annex, located behind an anodized metal door down the block from The Forge restaurant’s main entrance, housed it’s own full-service restaurant, with a different menu than The Forge, featuring traditional French cuisine. Non-members are welcome in the bar and the restaurant, with reservations. The club had one of the most outrageously gaudy, yet appropriate, bars on the East Coast with gold leaf and dark wood combining to create a turn-of-the-century elegance. A hip 1990s atmosphere is created by the energetic P.J. behind the bar and a pool table off to one side. Maître d’ Roger Bouillon keeps a humidor with a full line of Davidoff cigars available for customers. (Mott 1)
In a region synonymous with handmade cigars, the hottest cigar scene in Florida in the mid-1990s was at the Cuba Club at the Forge on Miami’s South Beach. Proprietor Shareef Malnik created the lounge in January 1996 as a celebration of everything Cuban. The 150-seat members-only club catered to serious cigar smokers who paid $4,000 for a 12-year “vault” membership with locker and $1,500 for a lifetime membership, without a locker. Depending on the membership, members were entitled to private humidified lockers, access to the club, access to special events such as parties featuring celebrities, special vacation packages and a 20 percent discount on Pan Am Airbridge, which could take members to sunny destinations such as the Bahamas and Key West. Fuente Fuente Opus X, Davidoff, Licenciados and La Flor Dominicana are just a few of the brands that were in the Cuba Club’s large humidor, with prices ranging from $5 to $25. Cigar girls worked the room, helping cut and light cigars. The bartenders served you a choice of wines, Ports and spirits. You could sit back and relax in leather and mohair couches and enjoy the “dramatic” atmosphere, according to Malnik. (“Cigar Aficionado” 1)
Shareef also partnered with Pepe Horta to bring Little Havana’s famed Cafe Nostalgia to The Forge, and again transformed his club in 1997 by beginning an association that lasts until this day, with legendary Queen of the Night, Regine, to open Jimmy’z at Cuba Club.
I had the privilege of being invited to The Cuba Club on my last visit to Florida in January, 1997. Located inside one of the premiere restaurants in all of Florida, The Forge, one is immediately impressed the second they walk through the “speakeasy” front door. A huge, see-through walk-in humidor–containing private lockers (among their members are Sylvester Stallone, Madonna, Marvin Shanken) is the first thing you notice. Step to the right and you are greeted with plush leather chairs and big screen TV’s. The evening I was present, The Cuba Club was dedicating a back room to the Fuente OpusX brand of cigars that they are carrying. This is an excellent place to relax with friends or entertain business associates. In addition to a full-service bar area and lovely hostesses, there are antique pool tables for your enjoyment. Hot tip: Wednesday evening seems to be THE night at this place; get there about 8:00 PM and enjoy a cigar and cocktail and then head next door to The Forge which attracts super models and others in their impressive surroundings. The party usually begins at 10:00 PM and lasts until closing. (“CigarFriendly.com – The Premier Cigar Web Site”)
Mott, Gordon. “The Forge, Miami, Florida.” Cigar Aficionado 01 Jun 1996: 1. Web. 18 May 2011.
“Smokin’ U S A.” Cigar Aficionado 01 Dec 1996: 1. Web. 18 May 2011.
“Cigar Friendly Establishment Reviews.” CigarFriendly.com – The Premier Cigar Web Site. Globalnet Marketing, Jan 1997. Web. 18 May 2011.