Dominican Cigar Industry Shuts Down Due to Coronavirus (Update)

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Coronavirus has shut down the Dominican Republic’s cigar industry.

As of Friday, virtually every sizable cigar factory in the country has shut down to coronavirus COVID-19. Those decisions were made by the factories themselves, though the government did ask businesses throughout the country to consider shutting down earlier this week.

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Below is a list of closures, representing the most notable names in the Dominican cigar industry:

  • ABAM Cigars — Closed from March 20-April 2
  • Agio Caribbean Tobacco Company — Closed March 20-April 2
  • Charles Fairmorn Factory — Closed March 19-April 2
  • Davidoff (Cigars Davidoff, O.K. Cigars) — Closed March 20-April 6
  • De Los Reyes — Closed beginning March 20
  • General Cigar Dominicana — Closed March 20-April 2
  • La Aurora Cigar Factory — Closed beginning March 20
  • PDR Cigars — Closed beginning March 20
  • Quesada/SAG Imports — Closed from March 20-April 3
  • Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia — Closed between March 19-April 3
  • Tabacalera de García — Closed March 20-April 30
  • Tabacalera El Artista — Closed for 30 days beginning March 21
  • Tabacalera La Alianza — Closed March 23-27, with plans to reevaluate
  • Tabacalera La Flor S.A. — Closed March 20-April 3
  • Tabacalera Las Lavas — Closed for 25 days beginning March 20
  • Tabacalera Palma — Closed March 20-April 6
  • Tabacalera William Ventura — Closed March 20-April 3

Update — The above list had been updated, below is the rest of the original story, some of which is no longer relevant after it was published on Thursday, March 19, 2020.

Like in Honduras where all cigar factories are closed, the closures mean the end of most operations at the factories, though each will likely keep a select group of workers around for the processing of tobacco, security and other essential tasks.

Many of those Dominican factory owners whose operations are still open told halfwheel they expect to be shut down by next week either due to government order or by their own choosing.

Even those factories that are open are severely impacted by the precautions that are being taken place to limit close proximity and reduce exposure to high risk populations. Many factories have sent home workers over 60-years-old and those who are pregnant.

At PDR Cigars in Santiago, the factory says it is running at about 50 percent and all workers are wearing gloves and masks. Tony Gomez of La Flor Dominicana told halfwheel that their factory is open but “in a very limited capacity” and he expects to be shut down sometime next week.

Unlike in Honduras, where the government ordered the closure of most businesses including cigar factories, the Dominican government has only recommended for most businesses to be closed for 15 days.

On Tuesday night, President Danilo Medina proposed a number of restrictions as part of a request for a declaration of an emergency to help curb the spread of the virus.

“We also request that all productive sectors, whenever possible, implement remote work for at least 15 days,” said Medina, in a translated speech. “In cases where this is not possible, the flexibility of working hours will be implemented and it is recommended that they limit the attendance of their employees to the minimum necessary, considering taking shifts to avoid the influx of many people.”

There seems to be a shift in attitude in the last 24 hours, all four of the factories that are closed or are closing informed halfwheel of their decisions after Wednesday morning.

In his speech, Medina also announced that the government would limit air travel to the country, explicitly allowing for foreign citizens to exit the country and for cargo and fuel ships to continue to enter the country according to a report by ListinDiario.com.

“A lot of what we do as a factory is ship internationally, meaning, countries aside from the U.S. so, Medina’s order to shut down borders impacts us tremendously,” said Luis Cuevas of Casa Cuevas and Tabacalera Las Lavas. “If we don’t ship, we don’t get paid, of course.”

As of midday on Wednesday, Cuevas said he had been informed that he will still be able to get cigars into the United States, but that his shipments to Europe will remain on hold. As such, the factory is remaining open and operational.

As of March 17, the World Health Organization reports 21 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Dominican Republic, with one death attributed to the virus.

Update — Shortly after this story was published, it was announced that the Charles Fairmorn Factory, which makes Kristoff Cigars, would be shutting down for two weeks. It has been added to the list.

Update (March 20) — This morning, three more factories—Tabacalera Las Lavas, the home of Casa Cuevas cigars; Quesada Cigars; and ABAM Cigars in Santo Domingo—announced they are effectively closing their operations for the coming weeks. They have been added to the list above. Additionally, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country has jumped to 72 according to ListinDiario.com, with Santiago identified as one of the country’s hotspots. Additionally, 301 people are under observation for possibly having contracted the virus.

Update (March 20) — General Cigar Dominicana has announced a five day closure of its premium cigar operations. In a statement, a spokesperson said that “Following the declaration of national emergency announced on Tuesday, March 17 by President Danilo Medina, we have ordered a five-day recess across our handmade cigar production to further implement precautionary measures relating to social distancing and hand hygiene. All other production in the Dominican Republic continues until further notice. In recent weeks we have deployed and enforced several measures on social distancing, basic hygiene and safety following international and local guidelines across our production sites in the Dominican Republic – and we are monitoring the situation constantly and will take further appropriate precautions as required to protect the health and safety of our employees.”

Charlie Minato contributed to this story. It was originally published on March 19, 2020.

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Patrick Lagreid
About the author

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for MLB.com, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.

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