SACO — The New England Patriots weren’t the only ones who smoked on Sunday.

A packed house inside Saco River Cigar Lounge, at 240 Main St. in Saco, watched the team crush the Miami Dolphins 41-13 while sitting on overstuffed leather couches and chairs, puffing on their favorite stogies.

Cigar lounge owner Dan “Cajun” Vela said the business has become a regular hangout for many customers to watch sporting events. The lounge, which comfortably seats about 20 patrons around its big-screen HDTV, was near capacity Sunday afternoon during the game.

Smoking a cigar is a leisurely affair that can take over an hour, Vela said. For that reason, many customers prefer to stick around and enjoy their purchases on the premises, he said.

Vela has accommodated them by outfitting the business with couches, chairs, tables, TVs, a pool table, video golf and other amenities. Three separate ventilation systems keep the air inside relatively clear.

“I like the fact that he’s got the NFL package for us,” said Rick “Little Ricky” Knox of Biddeford, a frequent customer, before Sunday’s Patriots game.

Knox, who has been a cigar enthusiast for more than eight years, said he comes to the lounge almost daily to relax, smoke and socialize with friends.

“It’s just a good place to hang out, you know, if you want to get out of the house,” he said.

In July, the lounge moved to its third location in three years. It is now housed in a free-standing building, surrounded by other businesses. Vela had received some complaints from nearby residents at his former location on Middle Street, particularly in 2013 when he attempted to obtain permission from city officials to register as a bottle club, which would have allowed patrons to bring their own alcohol.

As it stands, customers are not allowed to consume any food or beverages on the premises.

Still, the restrictions have not prevented the lounge from becoming a hot spot on game days.

Lounge regular David Lambert said it has become his go-to place after years of “smoking at friends’ houses, in garages, basements, wherever.”

“What I enjoy about here is the atmosphere,” said Lambert, who lives in Saco. “It’s also open for the wives – my wife comes in here often.”

Cigar lounges are unusual in that they allow customers to smoke inside. There are only a handful of such businesses in Maine, including Dad’s Cigar Parlor & Tobacco Shoppe in Biddeford, Calabash Cigar in South Portland, Cigar & Smoke Shoppe in Bangor and William Perry Cigar Lounge in Bridgton.

When the state Legislature outlawed smoking in bars and restaurants in 2006, cigar lounges were exempted but still subject to strict rules. A state law passed in 2007 expressly prohibits “the on-premises service, preparation or consumption of food or drink” in any tobacco specialty store that opened after Jan. 1 of that year.

A tobacco specialty store is defined by law as a business in which at least 60 percent of revenue comes from the sale of tobacco or tobacco-related products.

Vela, a Louisiana native and former commuter pilot, said regulations are the biggest challenge to running the business.

Still, he said opening the lounge was a great decision because it combined his love of cigars with a desire to own his own business. Vela used savings, a small-business loan and lots of labor to make it happen.

“I did a lot of work myself, and I had friends that helped me,” he said.

Vela sells about 25 varieties of cigars, most from Nicaragua, Honduras and the Dominican Republic. They range in price from $5 to $30 each, he said. Despite Wednesday’s news that diplomatic relations have resumed between the U.S. and Cuba, Vela said he doubts he’ll be making any trips soon to Havana to pick up some of the prized smokes. Americans are allowed to bring home only $100 worth of tobacco products.

Vela said he likes to stock the shop’s massive humidor with varieties many cigar smokers have never tried or even heard of. He also takes customer requests.

“I would call myself a boutique cigar lounge,” he said.

While the cigar shop does steady business year-round, the lounge is busiest during the winter, Vela said, because smoking outside in the cold ruins a cigar, making it crack and break apart.

Half the fun of operating a cigar store is educating customers who are new to the hobby, he said. Vela helps patrons choose the right cigars based on their personal tastes and shows them the proper way to light up.

Owning a cigar shop has been educational for Vela, too. For instance, he learned that the tobacco in one of his favorite cigars actually is grown in New England.

“Connecticut grows great tobacco along the Connecticut River,” he said. “It’s very sought-after by the cigar manufacturers.”