There’s a lot of buzz on the streets of Houston after word spread Downing Street Cigar Bar is going smokeless. What?

That’s like a restaurant going foodless.

The company made it official with a press release that was issued just last month.

Houston talk show host and former City Councilman Michael Berry says he’s very disappointed in the decision.

Berry says while he was on city council when the smoking ban went into effect he was able to get four exceptions to that rule.

He says Downing Street was one of the locations with an exemption.

The switch to a smokeless bar will take effect March 15th.

Here’s the company’s press release:

On March 15, 2014, Downing Street Ltd, No.10, Houston’s “favorite” (and only), cigar bar will transition to a “smokeless” environment.  After 17 successful years as Houston’s premier spot for premium cigars and spirits, the owners of the River Oaks landmark are instituting the change enthusiastically and with an eye to the future.

“The planets are currently aligned in our favor,” said Kevin Willis, one of the two co-founders of the bar.  “The simple fact is that circumstances related to our location and market trends have created a window of opportunity for taking Downing Street to the next level.”

The marketplace has always informed us in all of our business decisions,” he continued, “and it’s informing us now.  The time is right to expand our profile and appeal.”

Chris Hill, Willis’ co-founding partner and also President of HILL, an internationally recognized branding and marketing firm, also believes one-hundred percent in the bar’s move to adjust and re-focus its mission and product mix.

“We have, unarguably, established an enduring (and, remarkably, international), brand over the past 17 years,” stated Hill. “It’s a brand built on a consistent, enthusiastic delivery of exceptional goods and service in line with our unique take on—and celebration of—British, pre-war elegance, taste and élan.”

“Cigars and smoke-friendliness have been only part of our story, but never the whole story,” Hill continued.  “Our customers agree we excel in so many areas, we believe our decision to re-brand ourselves will strongly attract new customers who are drawn to the Downing Street experience but prefer a smoke-free environment.

Lawry Daniel, the Managing Partner of the bar, agreed the decision was—to a degree, bittersweet:  “We’ve had the great fortune over the years to develop a remarkably loyal and valued following…they are “family” to us.  But having monitored the market closely—and the past 12 months in particular—we’ve identified a vast segment of wonderful folks out there who have been wanting to join us…and ‘smoke’ was the only reason they visited us less frequently.”

“For our current ‘regulars’, Downing Street will continue to be among their favorites” Daniel continued.  “For now, the Cigar Humidor’s retail function and Private Locker facility will remain open to accommodate the cigar aficionados.”


What does the future hold for Downing Street?


Willis, Hill and Daniel sum it up this way:  “Obviously, this isn’t a decision we make lightly.  But the fact of the matter is, we couldn’t be more excited at the prospect of this business transition.  We’re excited by the potential, creative challenges and especially by the array of new friends we’ll be welcoming to Downing Street.  And the excitement is reassuringly familiar.  For us, the headiness and electricity is matching the intensely exciting days of our founding in 1997.  We can’t wait!”

Downing Street Ltd, No. 10, Houston’s premier spirits establishment, is located at 2549 Kirby Drive, on the northwest corner of the intersection of Kirby and Westheimer in the Kirby Oaks Center.  The full-service bar and classic “club” ambiance is renowned for its unmatched collection of premium spirits, including over 150 Single Malt Scotches and over 40 hand-crafted Bourbons; and a sumptuous light food menu. Complimentary Wi-Fi access extends throughout the premises.  Service Hours are 10AM – 2AM Monday through Friday, and 5PM – 2AM Saturday and Sunday.