Rocky Patel adds new locations for his luxury lounges
By Frank Seltzer
Just don’t call it a cigar lounge. For the past eight years, if you wanted to go to a fabulous nightclub where you could smoke a cigar, the destination was in Naples, Florida. That is the home of Rocky Patel Cigars and more importantly the club BURN by Rocky Patel.
The upscale lounge, which is usually packed, was the vision of Patel and took years to get just right. Initially, the lounge in Naples had the mixed look of Moroccan, Asian and Cuban touches. Patel is known for his attention to details, choosing every bit of the decor for the Naples location. After a few years, he decided the look wasn’t everything he wanted, so he redid it, and now it is more like Ernest Hemingway’s library. Now that Naples has been updated, Patel is expanding his vision.
The first BURN by Rocky Patel outside of the lounge in Naples opened in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in April this year. For his first venture outside of Florida, Patel and his team pulled from local culture.
“In Pittsburgh, we’ve incorporated all the bridges and the steel and wood,” says Patel. “It is kinda industrial but still has the wow factor. Definitely very edgy.”
Pittsburgh is also one of the lounges that offers food. Patel says they consulted with a Michelin 3-star chef to develop menus for the locations.
The second new BURN location, which is in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, opened in June. Each BURN is different and not a cookie-cutter design like you’ll find with the Hard Rock Cafe chain or other big franchises. Patel says, “My philosophy was to create a different experience every time they go to a new city because I want people who have been to Naples to go, ‘Wow, but have you seen Pittsburgh or Oklahoma City or Atlanta?’ Each one has its own character, and we wanted people to go and experience more than one BURN.”
So exactly what is BURN by Rocky Patel? It is a nightclub with live music and what Patel says is the evolution of lounges. “Typically, when you go into a large city, the nicest lounge in the city is one where you can’t smoke. You, as a cigar smoker, are the outcast. What I did was build a place that is stunning and going to be the nicest place in the state, and guess what—you can smoke a cigar. If you don’t smoke, you can still come in anyway because we spent the money on the HVAC system so there won’t be a cloud in here, even with 200 people smoking.”
One of the things Patel has stressed is the importance of getting the staffing right. In Naples, the staff is attentive and knowledgable, and he wants that spread across his newer ventures. “We want people who come here to be blown away. We do extensive staff training so the staff knows the scotches, bourbons, wines and cigars. We want people to come here and feel they get an education and experience that they won’t get anywhere else,” says Patel. “It is beautiful. We want women to come here and experience the aesthetic beauty; we want professional people, athletes, anybody who would want to come to one of the nicest lounges in the country. We will welcome them here.”
And with more than 65 scotches on the menu in Oklahoma City, along with bourbon, Irish whiskey and wines, Patel proudly notes it is the largest selection in the state.
For now, Oklahoma City is his favorite: “We wanted to tie in the local culture, flair, by bringing in the art and culture from the local area. Here is more of a Western and Native American theme.” But even at the grand opening, there was still more work to be done. Patel is changing a few things and adding a rooftop bar. Lockers, of course, are available for individuals or corporations to rent.
But why Oklahoma City? Patel clarifies, “I like to go into the smaller markets and become a big fish. I think this market is good because I could build a place here where you can smoke a cigar and have a cocktail, and there is a lot of disposable income. It is a town that needed something really, really cool. I am targeting those venues where we can provide a beautiful, decadent experience with great service. This will be the signature spot in Oklahoma City regardless [of whether] you smoke or don’t smoke. We have live music every night and then a DJ into the wee hours.”
The lounges are not small ventures either. The Pittsburgh location encompasses 7,000 square feet. The Oklahoma City lounge is more than 7,500 square feet over three levels and includes a rooftop area. Still to open are locations in Indianapolis, Indiana, with 6,500 square feet, and Atlanta, Georgia, with 5,000 square feet by the baseball stadium. As for the themes of those lounges, Patel says, “Atlanta will have more of the Southern charm; Indianapolis has the Indy 500 and sports.”
Will there be more? Patel says he honestly does not know. He says he has been approached to franchise the lounge internationally, but that won’t happen unless he has complete control. “It is not about making money,” he adds. “It is about the name, the brand, the lifestyle that incorporates everything the Rocky Patel brand is about.”