Bias and Disrespect: What is the True Culture of the Cigar Business

In a recent interview featuring Brian Desind, the owner of Privada Cigar Club, and hosted by Cigar Prop, what initially seemed like a standard conversation took an unexpected turn. While the conversation on the surface appeared ordinary, there was an unmistakable undercurrent of disrespect and dishonesty lurking behind the scenes. This incident sheds light on a concerning issue within the cigar industry—a culture of disrespect that not only aims to exclude but also seeks to undermine those who have finally made their mark.

Beyond the friendly appearances, it becomes evident that there’s an underlying discontent within the industry, and a desire to blacklist certain individuals. Even after overcoming the challenges to enter this exclusive world, one would expect to find respect and acceptance.

I know there are people in the industry that some of my sponsors have had issues with in the past, and out of respect for my advertisers, I don’t interview certain people. – Kevin Shahan, Cigar Prop

Instances of disrespect come in various forms, This raises an important question: What has happened to the sense of camaraderie and respect that should define the cigar enthusiasts’ community?

The recent interview with Brian Desind and Cigar Prop serves as a stark reminder that beneath the surface of this passionate industry lies a troubling trend among cigar industry professionals and professional amateurs alike that we cannot ignore.

One thing is abundantly clear, particularly with the rapid success of Privada Cigar Club and the Limited Cigar Association (LCA): this industry is not always welcoming, especially to those who are different.

If an advertiser doesn’t like a particular company or brand, they may influence the publication not to cover it. – Brian Desind, Privada Cigar Club

We reached out to both parties and this is what they had to say.

Brian Desind, Privada Cigar Club

Q: Can you provide insights into your journey and the significance behind your living arrangements when you started Privada Cigar Club?

A: “When I started Privada Cigar Club, I was a Florida resident, but I ended up spending time in Pennsylvania due to a house-flipping project that went over budget. Additionally, I had a family member in California who was ill, and I wanted to be there during that difficult time and for the birth of my child.”

Q: Did Privada Cigar Club ever operate outside of Florida?

A: “No, it never did.”

Q: Why do you think the interviewer asked about the legality of your business practices?

A: “The interviewer seemed to be trying to create a timeline and possibly get me to admit that I was a resident of another state.I even received a visit from an atf agent who claimed he was alerted by an anonymous tip”

Q: What’s your perspective on sponsors and their influence in the industry?

A: “In the world of cigar publications and interviews, most rely on advertisers for revenue. This can lead to bias in coverage, as these publications may prioritize their advertisers’ interests. If an advertiser doesn’t like a particular company or brand, they may influence the publication not to cover it. This can affect which cigars get reviewed and featured.”

Q: Regarding the legality of your business practices, can you clarify your approach and compliance measures?

A: “I’m committed to legal compliance. Some questions raised might be based on misunderstandings or misinformation spread by individuals with ulterior motives. I directly communicate with agencies regulating the industry to ensure we follow all laws.”

Q: How did you feel about the interviewer bringing up song lyrics from 15 years ago?

A: “I found it disrespectful and a cheap shot. It seemed like an attempt to create a negative connotation around Privada Cigar Club, which is unfair. Success in this industry has come from hard work and serving the community, not from lyrics in a song.”

Q: Do you have any closing remarks or statements?

A: “I’m tired of the negativity and misinformation. Privada Cigar Club has a loyal following, with over thirty thousand members over the years. Let’s focus on the positive and serving the cigar community rather than dwelling on a few detractors. It’s time to move past the negativity and continue enjoying our love for cigars.”

Kevin Shahan, Cigar Prop 

Q: Could you explain the reasoning behind showcasing an old music video during the interview?

A: “Have you seen the music video? Have you heard the song? It was good, I liked it. Have you actually ever seen any of my interviews? Or was the first time you tuned in last night? When we had Angela Yue on the show, I pulled up an old video of her playing the piano. When I interviewed Tony Bellatto, I pulled up a video of one of his old podcasts. As I told Brian before the show, our goal really isn’t to focus on the cigars when we’re interviewing someone, our goal is to let our viewers learn a little bit more about how the person that we are interviewing got to be where they are today. Brian’s music background is part of how he got to where he is today.” 

Q: When you were discussing the timeline of Brian’s living arrangements when he started the club, what specific information were you hoping to uncover or emphasize?

A: “I just wanted to know. It was a question that he had mentioned in two other interviews that I saw, but it was never answered. I even made it clear on the show that if it was something personal he didn’t have to answer it. It was just a question that I had.” 

Q: I noticed your wife has been actively involved in most of your previous interviews. Was there a particular reason for her absence in this one?

A: “If you watched the show, you would have heard that she was working late at Corona cigar Sarasota getting ready for the grand opening tonight. She did finally make it into the show, but as usual she was producing behind the scenes. She’s always been a part of the show but she’s rarely on camera. Going forward, she will be on camera now that we built a new lounge, but only when she is able to do to work restrictions.”

Q: Inquiring about the legality of Brian’s business practices: do you suspect any illegal activities within his operations?

A: “I don’t recall inquiring about the legality of this business practices. I had mentioned that several people wanted to know if what he was doing with Barrel aging cigars was within FDA guidelines, but I made it clear that it was a viewer question.” 

Q: Regarding the comment you made about a song lyric that Brian wrote 15 years ago: Was it intended to be disrespectful, or was it truly unintentional in nature?

A: “That’s why I was laughing when I said it, it was truly meant in a joking manner that some might find that lyric to be apropos to Brian because of what they think of him.  Nothing more, nothing less. It was a jokingly off the cuff remark.” 

Q: Do your sponsors exert any influence over your content or have specific requirements that you must adhere to in your productions? Are there any content guidelines that they provide, and do you find yourself having to meet certain criteria set by your sponsors?

A: “My sponsors and advertisers don’t have any input on what I do or say. I know there are people in the industry that some of my sponsors have had issues with in the past, and out of respect for my advertisers, I don’t interview certain people.”

“There was no hidden agenda behind this interview like I think you’re making it out to be.”