Is A Hookah Lounge What I Want?
December 22, 2018 3:33 PM   Subscribe

Mefites in the United States, what are hookah lounges like? I'm wondering if a hookah lounge would be something that would fill my longing to go smoke the occasional cigarette or other smoking material. Details after the jump.

I used to be a smoker. Now I occasionally enjoy a cigarette, maybe two or three times a year. The problem is, smoking has become such a despised activity, I don't feel comfortable sitting anywhere just having a nice glass of something, and enjoying my smoke. I can feel all the judgey eyes on me no matter how polite and responsible I am when I smoke. I'd like to go somewhere I can sit and comfortably have a drink (alcoholic is fine but it doesn't have to be alcohol) and a smoke.

I'm a 50 something woman and I think most often I would be going in alone. Not looking for a bar-like experience. Not looking to have lots of conversation with people. Would like to be able to smoke cigarettes, but am open to trying other types of tobacco smoking devices.

Basically, can you explain how hookah lounges work to me?

Thank you!
posted by WalkerWestridge to Society & Culture (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The hookah bars I've been to you go in and order the flavors you want and then smoke their product in a water pipe. You could go alone or with a group. I've never seen anyone smoking anything except what's in their hookah/water pipe. I do not recall them serving alcohol of any kind.
posted by Amanda B at 3:50 PM on December 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Hookah is a more involved thing than a cigarette (it lasts longer, probably 4-6x as long depending). Legally you may not be able to smoke a cigarette in a hookah lounge (depends on your location).

A hookah is basically wet (usually) fruit-flavored tobacco, in little cup atop a water pipe. A hot coal is placed on top of the tobacco (typically with perforated foil between) and you draw air/smoke through the coal, then the tobacco, then the water, and finally into your lungs. I used to work at a place that had them (though was not a hookah bar), I'd say people tended to share them (plastic mouthpiece per person; some pipes have multiple hoses) more typically than have an individual using up an entire hookah on their own. That's certainly possible (depending on your tolerance) but not the commonly done thing. A single hookah is definitely more chemicals to inhale than a cigarette or two, though, so bear that in mind.

Since I don't know what exactly you mean by "bar like experience" I'll ask: Are there any cigar bars in your neck of the woods? You also can't necessarily smoke cigarettes in these (yes that's bonkers but I didn't write the law), but if you are amenable to a cigar you might consider this option. Cigar bars tend to not be as socialize-with-strangers-heavy as regular bars (and also less busy).
posted by axiom at 3:52 PM on December 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Maybe try to find a place that meets your needs in a college town? I say this having frequented a café in college that designated its upper floor for smokers. They also rented hookahs out to those who wanted them. It was a very popular place. Certainly the (redolent) atmosphere was such that people were not judgemental about other people's cigarette habits. Also, most people were studying or doing their own thing - it wasn't a party kind of place at all.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 4:18 PM on December 22, 2018

A hookah bar is *not* a smoking lounge and cigarette-smoking is frowned upon in all the hookah bars I’ve been to. I do not this this is a viable option for your predicament.
posted by emkelley at 4:25 PM on December 22, 2018 [5 favorites]

Agreed. In today's North America, at least on the coasts, I think the OP would be happiest somewhere in The Great Outdoors. Does your seat have to be inside?

Depending on how many puffs you take on the hookah, you can take in a massive amount of nicotine.

Also true of Juuls and vaping, but I think that's a derail here.

posted by Rash at 4:38 PM on December 22, 2018

I think a cigar bar is going to have more of the type of vibe you're looking for. But all the cigar bars, hookah lounges, and vape lounges I know of only allow the smoking of their products and none allow cigarettes, usually due to local ordinances.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 5:22 PM on December 22, 2018 [4 favorites]

the hookah bars I've been to work like this: you (often a group of folks) order a hookah and a tobacco, usually off a menu of flavored options like watermelon, apple, etc. They bring you the hookah, which is a fairly elaborate apparatus that sits on the table or the floor, and it has hoses, through which you smoke the flavored tobacco you've ordered (a group may have several hoses with separate mouthpieces.)

It won't be the place you go to enjoy a cigarette; but you may find that it scratches a similar itch. It's an elaborate fidgety ritual, very aesthetically and mouthfeel-satisfying, and the tobacco hit is very pure.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:27 PM on December 22, 2018 [5 favorites]

Agreed that hookah is a group activity, and all the hookah bars I've seen are generally populated by Muslim young adults having coffee or tea, maybe some pastries. It's an alcohol-free group hang, generally, and there was probably a time before comprehensive indoor smoking laws that someone might smoke a tobacco cigarette, but the hookah is exempted where cigarettes generally are not.

I'm sorry, it sucks. I only smoke like 4 cigarettes a year now and have to creep out to a corner of my backyard to do it. I was in Las Vegas a couple weekends ago, walking through the Hard Rock casino, and nearly gave myself whiplash when I smelled an actual cigarette. I very nearly went to the bar and got a drink and sat down just to have the experience again. Aside from Vegas, I'm not even sure where that happens anymore.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:26 PM on December 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would consider looking for a cigar lounge. I have sat in one on a couch reading a book and smoking a stinky stogie. I cannot imagine them not having some sort of accommodation for a cigarette smoker.

I am a non-smoker (of tobacco) and have been to a hookah bar in NYC. I do not think that is what you seek.

Why not light up in your abode? Sit at the table and have a coffee or whiskey or juice and light one up. Relaxing to be in a comfortable place with the drink of your choosing.
posted by AugustWest at 6:41 PM on December 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Indiana still has smoking in bars and Reno, Nevada. And I think we ran across a bar with indoor smoking in Pennsylvania. . ..but that's a digression.

The hookah bar in my neighborhood had a BYOB license for a while, but it's mostly tea, soda and talking. it's a shared experience and the one in my neighborhood is mostly very young, very boisterous folks. There's no smoking anything other than the hookah, I prefer restaurants that have an after-dinner hookah lounge to the stand-alone hookah bars, as they tend to have liquor licenses.

I would look for a cigar lounge to scratch this itch, although a cigar is a very very different smoke than a cigarette.
posted by crush at 6:46 PM on December 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thirding cigar lounge. Get yourself a box of cigarillos, which is perfect as a cigarette alternative without having to resort to a big stogie.
posted by Karaage at 7:03 PM on December 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

If a Hookah lounge isn’t quite right, you could look for a lounge with a quiet outdoor (smoking) section. Lots of places have nice outdoor areas, maybe with firepits(?), that are specifically designed for smoking. A fancy hotel might fit the bill as it’s not too bar-like.
posted by MountainDaisy at 7:04 PM on December 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Lynn Never reminded me that in addition to Vegas casinos, you can also find smoking indoors at Native American casinos. I'm not sure if they all have it, but at least the ones near me have substantial smoking sections. Most of these casinos will have a bar onsite where you can also imbibe your choice drink.
posted by hydra77 at 8:01 PM on December 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Some restaurants and cafes have outdoor smoking a search in your city and see what's on offer. (I'm in the Bay, which is fervently anti-smoking and we even have a bunch here)
posted by ananci at 8:10 PM on December 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

OP here. I would actually be happiest sitting outdoors, but even in an outdoor designated smoking area one is often subject to rude looks and comments nowdays. That's why I thought a smoking specific establishment might work, though it sounds like a hookah bar is not the right place. I will look into a cigar bar for sure. Thanks for the suggestion! My own home is smoke free and will always remain that way because I live with a non smoker. So that's out (said non smoker is apt to be a bit judgey as well, truth be told, so even smoking out in the yard is not really comfortable).
posted by WalkerWestridge at 9:33 PM on December 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

In Philly, where i live, i know of two bars that allow smoking. Not sure if there's some kind of legal loophole here but maybe you can ask/look around and find a bar that allows it.
posted by bearette at 4:32 AM on December 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Pennsylvania law is that indoor smoking is permitted if less than 15% of the restaurants sales are food. So it’s rare but there is the occasional smoky dive bar full of regulars that has a bar menu that’s essentially throwing frozen mozz into the fryer. Smoking is practically required at these places, but most are not going to have outdoor seating and probably not the vibe you’re looking for.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:08 AM on December 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

This depends on the lounge.

I'm in the DC metro region and most hookah lounges I have been to are also restaurants serving cuisine from one or more Middle Eastern countries. Many but not all serve alcohol. Most contain plenty of patrons who are there just to smoke a hookah but who are not ordering food (and this is OK to do). It is not unusual to see a person dining or smoking a hookah alone. So you won't look odd, if you're worried about that at all.

Some additional info:
Around here, the cost of a hookah depends on 1) how many smoking hoses you require (this is relevant only if you're bringing guests); also, multiple guests can use the same hose - the establishment should always provide disposable hose "mouthpieces" to each person so that things are kept hygienic, 2) the brand/type of hookah shisha you order, 3) the style of hookah water pipe you select - they may charge you more for a "fancier" one, just like with the shisha, 4) if you decide to stay for a while and need a new charcoal (to keep the hookah burning), there is a fee for the extra charcoal. As one person smoking alone, you probably only need the one charcoal that comes with the initial hookah order. Additional charcoals cost about $2-5 USD. 5) As one person, you're likely to spend somewhere between $15-30 for a visit to a hookah bar - this figure excludes any food/beverage - mostly hinging on the type of shisha you purchase and how many coals you get. 6) Don't let any of this intimidate you, any hookah establishment worthy of your time will be kind and walk you through any questions you have about the aforementioned.

In my experience, the one hookah lounge around here that doesn't serve any food or beverage is a bit seedy and poorly run - it's in the poorly lit backroom of an under-stocked tobacco store.
posted by nightrecordings at 7:36 AM on December 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

I just wanted to say you should really, really try vaping. It doesn't leave a smell, doesn't linger, doesn't damage the walls. It's just water vapor. It probably won't replace your smoking habit entirely, but it's definitely more socially acceptable to vape where ever. My wife lets me vape in our house, and she's the type to complain if someone is smoking 100 yards away outside.

Most vape stores will let you try out the different flavors in store. Some will even let you hang out. There are even, in some places, vape bars.
posted by xammerboy at 9:51 AM on December 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

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