A friend who used to be a regular at a cigar bar called Flavor of Havana recommended the place to me for its karaoke night. I was skeptical at first about whether the bar was really a neighborhood hangout or just a specialty shop for cigar aficionados, but one visit set me straight. Located in a strip mall at 2295 South Chambers Road in Aurora, Flavor of Havana has the same things you'd find in any neighborhood bar — namely, TVs playing sports, booze of all kinds and a variety of locals hanging out.
I stopped in on a Sunday, and even though the Broncos weren't playing, there were other football games on as well as The Waterboy, that Adam Sandler football flick from the ’90s. Our female bartender was rocking a Looney Tunes ensemble and keeping the strong drinks coming while helping those who wanted to smoke cigars or hookahs.
We joined a few guys drinking and smoking hookahs in the small but nicely appointed bar filled with plush lounge chairs, leather booths, small tables and a long high-top bar. Behind us, a walk-in cigar humidor enclosed in glass displayed a wide selection of cigars.
Customers sipped bottled beers and mixed drinks in cocktail glasses and red solo cups. Some preppy-looking guys in the lounge seats smoked cigars, and a few guys in jerseys and hoodies sat next to us at the bar. The room was dark, but with a hint of black light that made my light-colored nail polish glow a bit, but that didn't make it feel too clubby — just more like a house party trying to be a little fancy. But unlike some hookah bars that allow customers between the ages of 18 and 21, Flavor of Havana is definitely an adult hangout.
There's no kitchen at Flavor of Havana, but the team will gladly heat up some frozen Rocky Mountain Pizza for hungry customers. Folks also order food from nearby spots in the adjacent strip malls in this part of southeast Aurora. For special occasions, such as customer-appreciation events or holidays, catered food is brought in.
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Jay McKnight has owned the bar for eight years; he and manager Evelyn Garcia keep the humidor well stocked and provide a wide variety of spirits at the bar for all tastes. Even before McKnight took over, smoking was a draw, as the previous establishment was called Smoker's Paradise.
Despite the cigar and hookah smoking, Flavor of Havana also tries to appeal to neighbors just looking for a good deals on drinks. Happy hour is no joke, running from noon to 7 p.m. every weekday, and other weekly events add variety. There are drink specials on Football Sundays, karaoke on Wednesday night, $10 hookahs on Mondays, and often DJs on Fridays and Saturdays. Gender equality here equates to Gentlemen's Night on Tuesdays, where guys drink free from 8 to 10 p.m., to balance out the same special for Ladies' Night on Thursdays.
Indoor smoking may be a rarity these days, but in every other way, Flavor of Havana is a typical neighborhood bar — friendly, welcoming and inexpensive. The hours are noon to 2 a.m. every day but Sunday, when the doors open at 10 a.m. during football games and 2 p.m. the rest of the year. Visit the bar's website for a list of hookah and cigar brands.