The Vertigo Club: a private, members-only cigar hangout that is easily Seattle’s best and most exclusive cigar club. But it’s not as snooty as all that makes it sound.
“There was a great cigar scene here,” said Vertigo Club founder Bill Daly. “For example, [you could smoke at] the top steakhouses, you could enjoy cigars at the Columbia Tower … but with the anti-smoking law, the bottom fell out of everything.”
Bill was in the finance world in 2008, and he used to try to schedule client meetings at Smokey Joe’s, the cigar bar just outside Tacoma that I reference at the start of this piece. “It was on Tribal land, so you could still smoke. The issue there was that it was impossible to do any kind of business because it was set up like a sports bar at that time,” he said. “So l came up with this idea that maybe we should put a club together that hearkened back to an older era when people could get together in a place where they could converse, and that rather than being directed toward televisions was more directed toward conversation. They could do their networking and get to know one another in a more intimate setting. I wanted a ’30s or 40s vibe, a little bit like a speakeasy.”
There’s no question that’s what Bill pulled off with Vertigo, which is just a tenth of a mile south of Westland Distillery. It’s an intimate setting that feels casual while still evoking that “we’re serious about enjoying cigars” feeling.
“The law was such that this could not be a workplace of any sort. I had to find a way to work within the narrow parameters of the law. If you couldn’t have employees, how could you have a club? Well, if you automate everything- access cards, lighting, heating, air – all that stuff was automated. And then you create a culture where people would police their own areas, bring their own supplies. Essentially what I did was create an environment. We have a bar with cocktail shakers, a kitchenette, you can bring in food, there’s plates, glassware, and ice makers. So when I was asked the question of how I got around the law, the answer was that I didn’t.”
The Vertigo Club doesn’t do any advertising. There’s not even a sign over the front door. Members know where it is, and they’re the only ones who really need to. To become a member requires not only a fee (which, as Bill puts it, is not cheap) but also an interview with Bill. The idea is that he and the other members need to be able to trust you and they want you to feel invested in the space, because without employees, everybody is counting on everybody else to be a steward. Put another way…they have to know you’re cool.
“I have to say [the best part of this experience] has honestly been the people. I have been incredibly blessed to have the people I have had here. I have met some of the most interesting people over the last ten years. We have a very informal interview process. People will generally figure out when they get to the top of the stairs [and into the Club area] whether they’re going to join. These are some of the greatest people I have ever had the pleasure to get to know,” said Bill, before noticing one member who was working on his standup routine (every cigar lounge has one of these guys), “with the exception of that guy over there.”
While it’s unfortunate that a business like his needs to exist at all, he points out that the model he built could serve as a blueprint for others looking to create space for cigar smokers in markets where the government has gone to these lengths to intrude on your right to enjoy a cigar.
Cigar Snob Magazine – March/April 2019
“It’s difficult to find a place to smoke indoors in Seattle. You can thank government nannies for that. And if ever there were an example of the kind of badass lounge that you’re being kept out of as a result of regulation by the state, it’s this one.
The VertigoClub is a members-only club, but it’s so damn cool we felt we should include it in [the Seattle Travel Guide issue] in case membership makes sense for you or a friend. Brick walls, high ceilings, leather, and dark wood make Vertigo as great a man cave as any you’ve seen. Whether you’re here to watch a game, get some work done or play a little poker, you’ll find yourself wishing you could smoke every cigar in a space like this.”
Cigar Snob Magazine – September/October 2015
A sensational bi-annual collaboration between Vertigo Club Owner Bill Daly and James Beard Award Winning Chef, Jason Wilson of CRUSH. A carefully paired multi-course cigar & wine dinner experience that is created to cater to the palate of the sophisticated Cigar, Wine, & Fine Dining enthusiast!
The Vertigo Club and CRUSH have made culinary history in Seattle! We are the first to offer these types of intentionally paired Cigar & Wine Dinners to Cigar Aficionados locally.
Here’s the idea: What if rather than haphazardly pairing a cigar with dinner, you actually built a course AROUND each of the cigars? Chef Jason Wilson, Owner of CRUSH and recipient of the prestigious 2010 James Beard Award for “Best Chef In The Northwest”, carefully designs an extraordinary, customized 6-Course menu around cigars thoughtfully selected for the occasion. Each course is specifically and purposefully created by Chef Wilson to enhance, compliment, and highlight each of the cigars’ unique flavor characteristics.
To round out these sumptuous meals, a very thoughtful selection of fine wines is carefully chosen by Chef Jason Wilson to bring together both the food and the cigars in complete harmony and balance for the ultimate in cigar and dining pleasure.
We all know that cigars change in flavor, character, and strength as they are being enjoyed. Some begin strong and then mellow out while some of the muted flavors become known towards the end, some start mild but end with a full-bodied but one-dimensional conclusion, yet others still maintain a consistent strength profile but vary wildly in their flavor complexity throughout the smoke. In this spirit, Chef Jason Wilson and Bill Daly do something slightly different with the cigar portion of these collaborations: rather than start a new cigar for each new course as had been done in the previous Vertigo Club & CRUSH Dinners, we now allow each cigar to “bridge” 2 courses so as to allow for changes in the cigar to become more evident as they’re being enjoyed.
These collaborations are legendary; see for yourself when you become a Member of The Vertigo Club!
Most cigar enthusiasts are able demonstrate a basic understanding of the cigar manufacturing process covering everything from provenance, to soil & climate considerations, to fermentation of tobacco, to the rolling of cigars, and most things in-between.
What would it be like then, to travel to a world-reknown cigar manufacturer’s base of operations in their respective country for a closer look at the journey a premium cigar makes from “seed to smoke”? Well, Members of The Vertigo Club are offered those opportunities!
Jorge Padron, President of Padron Cigars and his legendary father, Don Orlando Padron, founder of the storied brand, have both been incredibly generous to Seattle’s landmark Vertigo Club, going so far as to host Members of the Club during a recent journey to Nicaragua.
More than just an educational experience on the Padron family’s cigar-making process, this is a chance to witness the unmatched passion of a vertically-integrated, iconic cigar family in action. To hear everything from the genesis of how the Padron brand came to be, the journey that Don Orlando Padron undertook to grow the company in the early days, the family’s philosophy in everything they do each step along the way, the difficulties they have experienced both politically and economically, to see the hundreds of caring craftsmen they employ to help bring these magnificent cigars to life, to walking through the fields, feeling the soil, handling the tobacco, and tasting the finished product, is to bring far more meaning, understanding, and appreciation for one of the few products that are still hand-made by such a passionate family.
For the cigar consumer, there is no greater an experience to be had. Membership in The Vertigo Club certainly has its benefits.