THE idea of cigar rooms seems worlds away from today’s smoke-free society.

This 1969 cutting from the Telegraph & Argus shows the Cuba Café and Cigar Rooms on the sixth floor of Lloyds Bank Chambers in Hustlergate.

The wool men, the professional men who called in for a coffee and a cup of tea were, says the article, ‘a trifle deflated.’ Their Cuba Café, a traditional woolmen’s haunt for 150 years, was closing.

Many customers felt that it was the end of an era – the last place of its kind in the city.

You can see why. With its wood-panelled bar and traditional furnishings, it looks the ideal place to relax for a drink and chat after a hard day at work.

Clearly, the Cigar Rooms would not go down too well today. The bar top is piled high with boxes of cigars, so you can imagine what it must have been like when the room was full of people enjoying a smoke.

The rooms are, as the article says ‘a link with those palmy days when it was the done thing to smoke cigars.’ That is how it came by its name.

James’s, on Ivegate, where the idea for the café and cigar rooms was sparked, used to sell cigars and give coffee away free.

Few outside the trade knew of the café’s existence - a small brown board with a pointing gold hand was the only indication of its presence.

Inside, says the article, a notice to customers explains that, for the past two to three years, the café has been run as a convenience to them and that due to decreased turnover and increased costs, it is no longer economical and can no longer continue operating.

Th manageress, Miss Jeanne Stead, who has worked at the café for ten years, said she was sad about its closure.

“In the old days the older men used to come in after ‘Change and talk and smoke their cigars, but the younger men just don’t seem to want to carry on the traditions. It isn’t really a private club, but it has been like that, with the same people coming to the cafe every day.”

One of the Cuba’s regular customers, solicitor Mr J Eaton, said: “I have been going there for 40 years and shall miss it. I don’t think there is a comparable place anywhere in the city.”

He said over the decades many business deals had been forged in the café, over a cup of coffee.

Mr Jack Downs, of Downs, Coulter & Co in Bradford, recalled his father, JW Downs, being a shareholder in the Cuba.

“It has an exclusive air, and was a real piece of history,” he said. “MY father and other shareholders eventually sold their shares to G Whitaker & Co, the wool importers based in Piccadilly, who took over the café afterwards.

No doubt many of the regulars came away with their own piece of history – one of the wooden chairs, the clock on the wall, one of the many colourful cigar boxes, or other memorabilia from the once popular café.

The Cuba is just one of many cafes and coffee shops in Bradford that have closed over the years.

Many more, of course, have opened, predominantly chains that now dominate our high streets.

Helen Mead