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Landlord of closed Village Cigars store won’t rent to weed shop or bank

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | A fixture on Sheridan Square, Village Cigars recently closed. But if the iconic corner property’s owner has his way, its vintage signage, at least, will remain.

And despite the fact that Village Cigars did sell a bit of cannabis paraphernalia, like water pipes, its replacement definitely won’t be a weed shop — legal or otherwise — the landlord stressed.

There already is a pot store half a block away. But that’s not the reason why Jon Posner of Bernard-Charles Inc. real estate won’t rent the high-profile space to another one.

Also, leasing to a tenant who would keep the store’s authentic signage — or “largely” keep it — is a priority, Posner said.

Andrew Berman, executive director of Village Preservation, said that, although the building is part of the Greenwich Village Historic District, and thus landmarked, retaining the existing exterior signage technically is not required. The spot was a cigar store for nearly a century.

“It is landmarked,” Berman said of the small structure. “However, typically the Landmarks Preservation Commission will not require a sign from a no-longer extant business to be maintained. They might, however, require that any new signage replicate the style of the old signage, but the name and materials might be allowed to change. An example was the old Guardian Life building on Park Avenue South and 17th Street north of Union Square; when it became the W Hotel, the iconic red neon sign on the top of the building changed to a similarly styled new sign which said, ‘W Hotel.'”

According to Berman, Posner told him he is “committed to finding a tenant who wants to keep and reuse the existing signage, which could be seen as an asset and attraction. I’m hopeful that is what will happen,” the preservationist said. “He also told me he wouldn’t rent to a cannabis store. He said he was talking to a coffee shop.”

In an e-mail exchange, Posner told The Village Sun his priorities for the property’s future.

“Yes, we will absolutely preserve the signage in every way possible — I am 100 percent committed to that,” he said. “It will NOT be rented to a weed shop or a bank or that kind of thing — zero chance. Any use that can’t or won’t use the existing signage, largely, will not be considered. And weed or the like would never, ever, ever be considered, even if they were willing to keep the existing signage — not gonna happen, I don’t rent to garbage like that.”

According to Posner, one of the reasons the tenant, Andy Singh, had to leave was he did not have a valid New York City tobacco sales license and was unable to get one. Singh had rented the space for 26 years.

A determining factor was that a few months ago, in response to what Posner called “the scourge of weed stores,” the City Council passed a law penalizing landlords for renting to unlicensed smoke shops — of either marijuana or tobacco products — with fines of up to $10,000 for each failed inspection.

“So NO WAY on every front for a weed store,” the landlord emphatically declared. “Banks — or whatever the biggest fear is aside from a weed store — of course are legal, but we sure wouldn’t consider something like that either. In 40 years of renting stores in the Village, I’ve only rented to interesting businesses that enhance the neighborhood.”

According to Posner, Village Cigars stopped paying rent last August.

“In spite of that,” he said, “we continued to offer lease extensions at pretty much the existing rent and it all went nowhere. Full extension leases were prepared by us but never signed.”

Posner said Village Cigars had a tobacco sales license up until some point in recent years. Last year, as Posner tells it, his team discovered the store no longer had a proper license.

“When they said they needed a long lease in order to keep their tobacco sales license, we first began investigating what the story was with their license,” he said. “This was last year. And, again, all while trying to get them a reasonable extension lease, they stopped paying rent during that process.”

More than two years ago, Posner offered the quirky property for sale for $5.5 million. But it didn’t pan out.

“We did indeed receive offers when it was up for sale,” he noted, “but not at a figure that made us want to sell at that point.”

As for renting to a coffee shop, he said, “Coffee use [is something] that I could envision using the space with all the existing signage, one of many I’d suggest.”

Posner, who is a lifelong Villager, noted that he has “divested from” a number of local buildings that he formerly had an interest in. But he said some of the commercial tenants he has rented to over the past two decades include the likes of Japonica sushi, Grey Dog Coffee, Think Coffee, Save Khaki apparel, Tudor Rose antiques, Catherine Angiel vintage and fine jewelry, Rizza Salon, Stone Sparrow Gallery, Pertutti luggage and travel store, Doyle Mueser men’s suits, Diana Broussard shoes and jewelry, Agata & Valentina food market, John Esty framing shop and Blaustein Paint and Hardware and “many others.”

“No franchises,” he stated, “no national chains, no banks, no bodegas, no cell [phone] stores, etc.”

Curbed broke the news that Village Cigars had closed, reporting that Posner and Singh had signed “a separation agreement,” requiring that Village Cigars vacate by Feb. 7.

According to Curbed, Singh, who also owns Andy’s Deli next door, “said that he had not stopped paying rent, but that the separation was the result of a disagreement about the lease term. After falling behind in rent during the pandemic, he had switched to a month-to-month lease arrangement. Singh said that the city had stopped approving his application for a license to sell tobacco several years ago, and he had requested a 10-year lease. That, he argued, would allow him to pivot to a different sort of business, like a wine shop. But Posner said no.”


  1. Stephanie Phelan Stephanie Phelan February 16, 2024

    I consider Village Cigars a major landmark, sign and all. Please keep it the same way!
    When I was a designer at Connoisseur magazine in the ’80s, we ran a feature on a brilliant miniaturist who had created a perfect miniature model of Village Cigars. We’ve lost too many landmark sites, such as The Riviera, Chumley’s and more. Perhaps plaques showing the history and signage of these places, so embedded in our lives, should be placed outside of any businesses that replaces them.

  2. lynn pacifico lynn pacifico February 15, 2024

    This signals the end of an era, the era of the free, creative, nonconformist, rebellious, ahead-of-their-time-thinking Village. Replaced by…

    • Fallopia Tuba Fallopia Tuba February 17, 2024

      …Yeah, I can’t say it either.

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