Hookah bar opens downtown

Ryan deBiase

A hookah at one of the tables at the Firefly Lounge. PAT JARRETT | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Steve Schirra

       Relaxing music and the smell of fruit-flavored tobacco waft out onto the sidewalk of South Water Street in Kent. On a Friday at midnight, the Firefly Lounge is quiet and welcoming compared to its noisy neighboring bars.

The newly opened hookah bar has a noticeable buzz, as it is nearly filled to capacity.

Guests lounge on plush couches or pillows on the floor and smoke flavored tobacco. The most noticeable part of walking into the lounge for the first time, said part-owner Tony Lahood, is its unique atmosphere.

“We wanted the place to have its own vibe, its own presence,” he said. “That was our goal and we feel that we’ve succeeded at doing that in Kent.”

The concept for the hookah bar originated with his ethnic heritage. Lahood, marketing major at Cleveland State University, is of Lebanese descent. He said the hookah is a traditional means of social gathering, originating in the Middle East and expanding out into most of Asia, North Africa and Europe.

“The hookah is the actual mechanism for smoking,” Lahood said.

The smoke travels down from a bowl of charcoal heated tobacco and into a vase-like glass chamber where the smoke is cooled with water. The smoke is then inhaled through a cloth tube with a wooden mouthpiece.

“Smoking a hookah does not make you high,” Lahood said. “After a few puffs, you may feel a bit light-headed, but it is not overwhelming. If anything, it makes you more conversational.”

A hookah costs $9.50, and usually lasts a party of four an hour.

“That equates to a little less than $2.50 a person for an hour-long hookah,” Lahood said. “And we’ve had parties of seven or eight come in.”

The Firefly Lounge features free wireless Internet access and a $1.89 bottomless cup of coffee from a specialty Cleveland roaster. Lahood said the lounge serves high-end desserts as well, such as Cheesecake Factory cheesecakes, tiramisu and baklava. The establishment plans to expand its menu to ethnic appetizers as well.

Lahood said he and the other owners, two Kent State graduates from the School of Business, plan on building a stage for local artists to play live music. The Firefly Lounge is a multi-purpose establishment, offering coffee, desserts, lounge space and a relaxing atmosphere.

“During the day, a student can come in and study, drink coffee and smoke a hookah,” Lahood said. “A couple can come here after a nice dinner. Or a group of friends can come here and hang after going to the bars. We want our clients to create their own experience here.”

The lounge plans to display student art in the near future.

“We asked the art department and a couple art students to basically bring in their works,” Lahood said. “From there, they can either expo the work, or we’ll buy, or they can keep it for sale here. We want the students to create a part of the vibe themselves.”

Part of the experience of going to the Firefly Lounge is the ability to create your own atmosphere. It is essential to the growth of the place as a social venue.

“We’re looking for suggestions for music, d‚cor, anything to make the place more enjoyable for the guests,” Lahood said. “We want to focus a lot for the university. We run the (lounge), but we’re not the patrons. You guys are the ones coming in here to hang out.”

Contact ALL correspondent Ryan deBiase at [email protected].