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mushrat

So, You Want To Start A Hookah Lounge : Updated.

262 posts in this topic
Alright i have a few questions. Im from cleveland and the trend is that more people are going to these little establishments to go and smoke a hookah and the quality of actual clubs/bars have gone down. I have read your buisness plan and i like the idea of the 3-layer system of shisha and i was wondering how that went for you. I want to open mine by the spring and i have everything planned out except what hookahs to use now. I was going to use Mya Acrylics but i cant seem to find them. Also i was wondering if anyone knew what the square footage i should be looking for in a place to rent.

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Mya acrylics are out there. Called Orbs i think? You should contact Mya Saray directly.

I used qt's and they were perfect, people occasionally asked for bigger hookahs but once they smoked the qt they quieted down. :)

Square footage depends on your atmosphere. My place was TINY and we packed em in.

My pricing system worked perfectly, though at the end the prices were a bit higher and no one complained really.

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I wanted to do something completely different than any place i have been. I wanted to have the front area have the usual couches and tables and music playing. Like a modern style. But in the back i was going to make it more traditional style smoking area with low tables and cushions on the floor.

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Seen that sort of set up before. Remember you need to be able to keep an eye on everything. If you have multiple rooms you'd better have your staff constantly on the move. The minute people think they can get away with something they will try it.

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Very interesting thread. I have NO desire to open a lounge - my mom had a couple gourmet food shops when I was in college so I know what it takes to get a retail business going.

A couple years ago PA got on the smoking ban bandwagon for bars and restaurants. There are 4 local bars who I kept an eye on during that battle. 1 is the one BF and I go to all the time, another is the "biker bar" across the street from it. The third and fourth are down the road in opposite directions from 1 and 2.

Bar 1: Owner blocked off the bar area from the restaurant area (it's a Rev. War era Inn so has lots of doors) with a separate entrance for the bar and restaurant (one of the stipulations in the ban). Nobody under 18 was allowed in the bar area. He actually has a good air management system too. However, his MAIN draw is the food - it's a most excellent german restaurant. And that's the stickler. If you want to be open on Sunday, you can't make most of your money from food (many restaurants are open on Sunday and closed on Monday). Now it's non-smoking, but he put in a beautiful beer garden and you can smoke and dine out there.

The other 3 bars are more "bar like" with pool, darts, etc and food is a adjunct to their alcohol. They also have signs that say nobody under 18 is permitted. Now, I've only been to the "biker bar" once (too loud for me), but bars 3 & 4 I'd been to as a kid (bar 4 has the most awesome chilli) so it was weird seeing the under 18 restriction on the door.

I am not sure how the rules fit for Hookah lounges. One is a middle-eastern restaurant and one was a straight-up hookah lounge. I heard rumors though that the lounge is no longer in business.

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Yea we have a smoking ban here in Ohio also but it hasent seem to affect the hookah lounges so much. Its that as people get more into the hookah culture, they see that these lounges are running things stupidly

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This is why I'm considering opening a lounge in VA. The smoking ban isn't that bad. If you put yourself out there as a smoking only establishment, it's so much easier. I'm in the process of securing the location, already have wholesale agreements in place, already have stock in place. I'm also only using Khalil Mamoons as they are the superior hookah. My only question is pricing....I'm going to be having Tangiers, Nakhla, Al Fakher, Starbuzz, Ayam Zaman, Hookah-Hookah, and maybe Social Smoke..what would an average price point be?

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do it in tier levels. basic flavors,better, best. also i wouldnt carry so many types. Also if your worried about the smoking ban getting more intense, you can contact your state legislator and ask if there is any new/current legislation going through the state about the smoking bans.

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i would price the Nak, and af the lower price, sb and SS the middle price, and tangiers the highest. I'd skip the HH and i dont know what the price is for the A-Z so i dont know exactly where to group it.

Dont call them good better best, find a way to do it that doesn't reflect badly on your lower price stuff.

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I am looking to open a hookah bar in my city because we have over 5 colleges, but hardly any hang out spots for students! The only place students, or anyone for that matter, have to go is the downtown strip. This area has a Wild Wings and a few small bars which are always PACKED full to where you can barely walk through them. I think a hookah bar would be the perfect addition to this area. I know I will have to check with the state and city to make sure it will be allowed. I have enough friends who love hookah and would be a great clientele just in themselves, not to mention the crowd that is always downtown on weekends and weeknights.

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warning, make sure your friends don't just think they have found a cool place to take up space and not have to pay for their hookahs. :)
drunk people and hookah make for many clean ups. WOn't even talk about the person who puked the length of my hallway on their way to puking all over my bathroom...

make sure the rents are soemthing you can work with, college towns are EXPENSIVE.

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[quote name='mushrat' timestamp='1316972887' post='525105']
i would price the Nak, and af the lower price, sb and SS the middle price, and tangiers the highest. I'd skip the HH and i dont know what the price is for the A-Z so i dont know exactly where to group it.

Dont call them good better best, find a way to do it that doesn't reflect badly on your lower price stuff.
[/quote]

I was kindof thinking that, however, in the area I'm in, there's another lounge serving Tangiers (can't say name as I believe some stuff went down or something like that) but I'm trying to keep myself apart, the reason for Social Smoke, Nakhla, and Ayam Zaman.

I want to be the shining star in the hookah lounge world. I think concept is key, and I'm thinking top quality hookah mixed with local beers, top quality food, and an inviting enviornment will be the perfect way in.

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then do Tangiers BETTER than your local place. Its popular enough that it will bring people in. Don't serve a tobacco merely because no one else aroudn does, sometimes there is a reason, like HH being crappy shisha for instance. :)

so you are going to have food, beer, and hookah? the health inspector is going to LOVE you. :)

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I know...I was thinking of doing what they don't do and use Phunnel bowls...extend session, maybe charge a couple bucks more.
The reason for HH is merely within the wholesale agreement for Ayam Zaman...I'll probably unload it in my retail section.
Yep. I don't know where to go with the food though. I already got the beer settled (my system's coming in today....we're going to have 54 beers on tap, another 35 in bottles). I like the traditional food, but my lounge is so much sleeker.

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[quote name='mushrat' timestamp='1316997474' post='525142']
warning, make sure your friends don't just think they have found a cool place to take up space and not have to pay for their hookahs. :)
drunk people and hookah make for many clean ups. WOn't even talk about the person who puked the length of my hallway on their way to puking all over my bathroom...

make sure the rents are soemthing you can work with, college towns are EXPENSIVE.
[/quote]

Just wanted to stress the point further.

[b][size=6]college towns are EXPENSIVE.[/size][/b]

Not just the shops rent but your own too.
Something to the tune of 2000$ for 100 squares Edited by S3cretz

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[quote name='mushrat' timestamp='1310732340' post='515986']
I did no advertising, had a web site that listed my flavours of shisha (63 i think?) and my beer list (50 giver or take)though i was on google maps and the local chamber of commerce sites, also a "what to do in NC" free site by the dept of tourism. If you put in hookah and chapel hill i was the entire first 2 PAGES of google and Yahoo search results without even trying. Not the first 2 entries, Pages.

My bar is long gone. NC passed a smoking ban that took me out.
[/quote]
and the local chamber of commerce sites
Ha Ha ha ha XD
And some local papers.. Edited by S3cretz

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and your state is cool with beer and no food? Just checking. :)

i used Mya standard bowl for everything but Tangiers. That i had phunnels for. They are costly in comparison and you don't want someone on a 10 dollar af smoke to be able to go 4 hours cause you gave them a phunnel....

Remember, thinking like a customer is good, but thinking like the owner who has to make money is the real key. You want people to come in, enjoy a decent session, and get the fuck out for the next guy.

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I was thinking 8 for Nak (12 for overpack), 11 for AF, 14 for SB/SS/Tangiers and mixes, 18 for AZ
I will be using Phunnels only for Tangiers...and I might do 18 for a phunnel.
I am doing food, just don't know what yet. Maybe tapas with a middle eastern fusion.
I'm also considering making my own line of mu'assel just for my lounge. Something different, but along the lines of a Nakhla style with amazing flavors...I'm already working on one, let's just say it's a very salty smoky flavor.

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Don't undersell yourself. If you are the only or best game in town, start higher. You can always have specials. Harder to raise your prices in the beginning than have specials :)

Check with the health inspector BEFORE buying food prep stuff, they may just decide there is no way for you to keep the food clean with all the ash around and then you are screwed.

Making your own Mu'assel is cool, but check the federal laws, could be setting yourself up for a raid from BATF. and no i'm not kidding.

Many inspectors (building, health, fire) will be happy to do an unofficial "pre-inspection" or even just a sit down and discuss the rules before you call them in to inspect. This will allow you to find out what they expect BEFORE you out everythign together and hope. Also they will be more likely to pass you if you did what they said ahead of time. :) I did this for my health and building inspectors and it worked out fine and saved me the headache of making last minute fixes.

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Already talked with the health department, everything's ok as long as both processes are separate. (Hookah prep and food prep, already took care of that).
I know I'll be the best in the area, and I might consider price increases if the area can suit it (this will be before opening of course, already have a ton of specials in mind)
Just started smoking a flavor from my first batch.....Bacon.....actually isn't that bad.

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[quote name='S3cretz' timestamp='1317055458' post='525222']
[quote name='mushrat' timestamp='1316997474' post='525142']
warning, make sure your friends don't just think they have found a cool place to take up space and not have to pay for their hookahs. :)
drunk people and hookah make for many clean ups. WOn't even talk about the person who puked the length of my hallway on their way to puking all over my bathroom...

make sure the rents are soemthing you can work with, college towns are EXPENSIVE.
[/quote]

Just wanted to stress the point further.

[b][size=6]college towns are EXPENSIVE.[/size][/b]

Not just the shops rent but your own too.
Something to the tune of 2000$ for 100 squares
[/quote]

This really depends on what you're looking for.
My rent is definitely higher (I'm renting 10,000+ sqft.) but it really depends on the area.
$2000 a month could get up 1000 sqft. in a lot of college towns.

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[quote name='omegaalpha22' timestamp='1317231147' post='525488']
Already talked with the health department, everything's ok as long as both processes are separate. (Hookah prep and food prep, already took care of that).
I know I'll be the best in the area, and I might consider price increases if the area can suit it (this will be before opening of course, already have a ton of specials in mind)
Just started smoking a flavor from my first batch.....Bacon.....actually isn't that bad.
[/quote]


I'd say you are well ahead of the curve in your planning. Best of luck. :)

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I've put way too much money in this to risk it over underplanning.
Let's just say I've put at least 6 0s into it. I should be opening in mid-2012, as there's a lot of remodeling still left to do.

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iwow...quite an investment, though having a restaurant changes everything of course beyond a simple hookah bar. Keep us informed as to how it goes.

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Only problem with your business plan is that your competition is THE household name in the area for hookah and a serious powerhouse.... how do you intend to pull clientele away from a lounge that has been serving the best of the hookah world for 5 years running?

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