Factories are closed, warehouse aren’t shipping and if you call an office tomorrow, don’t expect anyone to pick up. Whether or not Hurricane Irma directly hits Miami, it’s already affecting the cigar industry.
As of Thursday afternoon, Miami-Dade County had already issued evacuation orders for parts of the city, some of which included the warehouses and headquarters of cigar companies.
Most Miami-based companies are closing or have already closed today and are preparing to be closed on Monday. Drew Estate, which is located southwest of downtown Miami, sent home non-essential employees yesterday and is closed through at least Monday. On the other end of the spectrum, Quesada Cigars, located just west of Miami International Airport, will close tomorrow afternoon.
Altadis U.S.A., located in Fort Lauderdale just north of Miami, is closed today through Monday.
But it’s not just the eastern part of Florida that is being affected.
On Florida’s western coast, Davidoff of Geneva USA will close its Pinellas Park office, located southwest of Tampa, tomorrow afternoon and Monday. The Arturo Fuente/J.C. Newman offices and warehouse are expected to remain open tomorrow.
Further south in Bonita Springs, Rocky Patel Premium Cigars, Inc. is closed today through Monday.
All of the dozen or so companies halfwheel spoke to indicated they will assess the impacts and adjust closure plans accordingly. Many explained that the question is not simply if the storm hits, but how it will affect shipping operations, both into and out of Florida’s coasts.
As for a country that has already seen Irma, all businesses in the Dominican Republic were closed today by order of President Danilo Medina.
Both in Santiago, located in the northern central part of the country, to La Romana, a coastal area on the southeastern part of the island, the impacts were far less than feared. Most people just indicated it was raining heavily.
Some who spoke to halfwheel indicated that factories in Santiago, which is where most of the Dominican cigar manufacturers are based, could open tomorrow. Rob Norris, general manager of Altadis U.S.A., said that Tabacalera de García—the largest cigar factory in the world and one of a few in La Romana—will be open tomorrow. At one point the company expected to have the factory closed.
Earlier today the storm curved north, good news for Cuba, which is now likely to avoid a direct hit. A representative for Habanos S.A. did not respond to an email regarding what plans the company was making in preparations.
Update — Tabacalera de García will now be open on Sept. 8. The company originally planned for it to be closed.
Patrick Lagreid contributed to this story.