Three hookah locations offer summer ‘loungin’

By: R.E. Walker

While school may be out for most people, there is still plenty of “loungin’” to be done just a short walk from the middle of UK’s campus at either of the Prince, Casablanca, or recently opened Off Tha Hookah lounges.

The hookah lounge offers a unique experience that can bring together even the most high-strung summer session students.

For a bit of history, hookah has been around for quite awhile, according to the three locations’ websites.

“The first hookahs were made out of coconuts and showed up in Turkey shortly after the discovery of tobacco,” according to Prince’s FAQ page.

Prince’s new owner, George Natur, has only been on the scene for about eight months, though. He took over for the old owner and immediately started taking measures to revitalize the establishment. Some of which included updating the layout and getting Prince involved in various social media outlets like LivingSocial.

Casablanca also has a Facebook page to keep its clientele in the know when it comes to upcoming events and specials.

Its owners have been enjoying the shop’s success since it first opened in 2010, although, admittedly, business has been down since the spring semester let out.

Then there’s the new spot on the block, Off Tha Hookah, which recently had a grand opening in December of last year. The opening was accompanied with great fanfare, complete with live music and exotic belly dancers.

The excitement for Off Tha Hookah has since cooled down, though. Quite possibly due to the opening of T Bar right next door stealing the freshness factor that had previously made it the place on Euclid Avenue to come check out.

But what makes this hookah thing so ‘hip’ anyway?

It’s easy to read the descriptions on the websites and still not come away with what the whole experience of smoking sheesha actually entails.

For starters it’s nothing like smoking cigarettes.

There are in fact many people who enjoy the occasional hookah but would never touch a pack of everyone’s favorite filtered tobacco. Sheesha, the tobacco that is most commonly smoked out of hookahs, comes in a cornucopia of flavors.

All three lounges offer a similar selection where everything from apricot and bubble gum to safari melon dew or caramel frappuccino incredible can be found on the menus. And any combination of flavors can be mixed for just a small surcharge.

The taste is just one of the allures, though. Per Off the Hookah’s Facebook page, “when you smoke sheesha you have time to think.” Additionally, “it teaches you patience and tolerance and gives you an appreciation for good company. Sheesha smokers have a much more balanced approach to life.”

It seems that most of the people who have chosen to make these places a frequent destination agree with this description. “There’s definitely a community that comes with this whole hookah following.”

Moriah Peters, a psychology major at UK and avid hookah smoker said, “Sometimes you have to take a break from the grind and just enjoy the moments we’re living in. Hookah gives us an excuse to come together and it’s not the most dangerous alternative.”

Jeff Rizzo, a recent UK graduate, echoed the sentiment.

“I can remember when I wasn’t old enough to go to bars or whatever and it was still like a cool thing to do. Grab some late-night grub and smoke some hookah, and it’s all-good. I’m glad there’s a place right around the corner,” he said.

With all these choices when it comes to hookah, there also comes a great responsibility. None more daunting than the choice of ‘which place should I go to enjoy this awesome experience?’

Each lounge attempts to offer something slightly more enticing than the other guys down the street.

Prince, for one, has coupons in the student discount booklets that are offered on campus every year.

Casablanca often offers free refills on hookah during non-peak hours.

And Off Tha Hookah has partnered with a downtown bar, Trust, to bring the night owls a more relaxed afterparty environment, sometimes open as early as 7 a.m.

Interestingly enough, the owners of each lounge are all acquaintances of one another and don’t have one bad thing to say about their competition.

If asked, they will each tell you that it’s really just up to the customer and they don’t worry about ‘stepping on each other’s toes’.

This non-confrontational mindset sort of comes with the territory. My advice is that the choice is ultimately up to you, just don’t sweat it.

Whatever your flavor is, it’s more than likely we have it here in Lexington and you’ll be glad to know that students are always welcome to come take a load off at your local hookah lounge and have a taste!