Take a hit (It’s legal.)

Brianne Carlon

FireFly brings hookah smoking as a bar alternative in Kent

Lindsey Moore, junior secondary education major, smokes a hookah filled with fruit punch flavored tobacco at the FireFly lounge. LESLIE CUSANO | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: John Proppe

Four college-aged students lounge on the plush, mocha couches against the wall-length window at the front of FireFly. They are relaxed, casually sipping soda and taking turns inhaling — the hookah, that is.

Hookah smoking, which started in Persia and India, has now drifted into the Kent area, and its popularity continues to grow around the country, mostly due to its soothing nature and distinct vibe.


What: Hookah bar

Where: 124 S. Water St.

Cost: $7.50 before 8 p.m.

$12.50 after 8 p.m.

Hookahs are exotic, genie-style water pipes through which the smoker draws smoke into his or her mouth from flavored tobacco. To start, a hostess will place a chunk of moist, flavored tobacco in the head of the water pipe and cover it with aluminum foil. Lit charcoal is then placed on top of the foil. The smoker inhales through the hose creating a vacuum, which draws the air over the tobacco. It then travels through the body of the contraption, the water in the bowl and finally, the hose.

The smoker holds the smoke in his or her mouth without taking it into the lungs long enough to enjoy the flavor before exhaling. Unlike cigarette smoke, it is not heavy. Hookah smoke is light and surprisingly fresh — almost like flavored air. No coughing, no burning — just flavor.

“It’s really smooth smoking,” said Ryan Brown, one of three owners of the FireFly in downtown Kent. “You don’t even realize you’re breathing it in.”

FireFly is a hookah lounge that opened in mid-April at 124 S. Water St. Warm colors on the wall make the space welcoming and cozy, and sofas are arranged strategically into several conversation areas, each brought together with a black coffee table in the center. A single candle illuminates every table, while six celestial candles hang from the ceiling.

“You can only see the candles from the outside,” Brown said. “We wanted to hang them throughout.”

It is a place of relaxation and socializing, he added.

“It is mainly just something to do while having conversation,” he said. “Just come in with a group of friends to smoke and talk.”

Amanda Fulmer, junior art history major, also said FireFly has a peaceful ambiance.

“The atmosphere is chill,” she said, as her tall frame sank back into the oversized couch. “I feel like I am at home.”

The uniqueness of hookah smoking is what has made it so popular, Brown said.

“It’s different from the bars. You can come here any time of the week and not wake up with a hangover the next morning,” he said. “And it is still fairly cheap because you can split it with friends.”

A hookah costs $7.50 before 8 p.m. and $12.50 after at FireFly.

And to make the experience even more unique, there are dozens of flavors to choose from, including: cherry, rose, vanilla, kiwi, strawberry and chocolate. Double apple, mango and kiwi are the most popular at FireFly, Brown said.

“You can mix the flavors if you want, too,” he said, “and it will last for about an hour.”

People will come and stay for anywhere between an hour and a couple of hours. Students also come in during the day with laptops to enjoy the quiet and serene atmosphere, Brown said. FireFly gets between 30 and 35 customers during weekdays and usually reaches capacity on weekends, he said.

Jamie Bentfeld, senior at Ohio State University, has visited hookah bars in Paris and Switzerland, as well as the United States.

“They are a great alternative to drinking,” she said. “It is a good place to take a date or someone you want to get to know.”

Alcohol is another hot topic at hookah lounges. Bentfeld said she prefers those that do not serve alcohol.

“It (alcohol) takes away from the hookah,” she said, “when it is such a cool thing to do in itself.”

Her favorite lounge was the one she visited in Paris, she said. It had big, comfortable chairs, Egyptian music and inscriptions from the Quran on the wall.

“It was a whole experience,” she said. No alcohol was served; instead there was herbal tea.

This is the route FireFly took, as well. Coffee, tea and soft drinks are served.

“We do not want it to turn into a loud bar,” Brown said, “but eventually we would like to serve beer.”

Fulmer also feels that alcohol might ruin the Zen of the lounge.

“This is a good place to come after the bars or before a test because it is relaxing and helps to relieve stress,” she said with the tip of the hookah continuously pressed to her mouth. As she inhales, the water in the bong bubbles.

“Hmm.,” she hummed as she exhaled a small white cloud of smoke. “I feel like the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland.”

Contact features correspondent Brianne Carlon at [email protected].