Hookah fans breathe new life into an ancient tradition

A glance at the list of over a dozen hookah flavors offered at Habookah Hookah lounge in Tempe reads like a Hawaiian shaved ice menu. From guava to blueberry muffin, just about anyone’s palate can be satisfied at this new-school style hookah lounge started by Cody Bahner.

“This business really just grew out of a hobby of mine. My friends would always throw parties, and I would end up going and setting up hookah and food for everyone; we always had a lot of fun just sitting around sharing the hookah and enjoying the big game or just talking.

“A friend and I realized this could be a cool business idea so I worked out a business plan and waited for the right time to launch Habookah.”

Bahner comes off as a cool young guy with a friendly personality and a knack for cleanliness developed from his years working in restaurants. All of these qualities come through in the lounge. It’s spotless and has ample couches and comfortable chairs for people to relax in as they smoke with their friends. The lighting is soft and dimmed and the paintings on the wall are of an abstract and psychedelic nature.

“I just really wanted Habookah to be something different,” said Bahner. “Most of the hookah lounges I had been to around here are more Middle Eastern-themed, which is fine, but I saw a need for a different kind of lounge.

“Additionally either the service or the cleanliness at these establishments was always a bit lacking in my opinion. I designed Habookah by myself and wanted it to be a different kind of place. My clientele range anywhere from 18 to about 45 years old.

“Once I even had an 83-year-old woman in here. The thing they can always depend on here is great service, cleanliness, and a mellow environment to socialize and relax in.”

Bahner says that hookah really started to gain popularity in the U.S. in the early 2000’s. Hookah lounges are often seen as an alternative for underage kids who can’t go out to the bars or clubs. However older patrons appreciate the mellow mood of a hookah lounge as a laid-back alternative to the bar and club scene.

When it comes to the health effects of hookah, opinions and studies are all over the place. Proponents of hookah note that it does not have all the extra chemicals that cigarettes are packed with. Detractors, however, are quick to point out that hookah still contains nicotine since it is a tobacco product and subsequently poses health risks. Finally a criticism of hookah lounges in particular is that they spread germs and disease.

“I clean all the mouthpieces and all the parts with all natural products,” says Bahner. “People can even switch the mouthpiece out when it’s their turn to smoke.”

Habookah Hookah lounge opened just this year but is already experiencing a steady flow of customers and glowing online reviews.

“I just really want people to come here and enjoy the atmosphere. Hopefully in the near future we can do some fun events like an open-mic night. We have big things coming for hookah lovers.”



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