Hail Hookah Opens on S. Main
Smoking, yes. Food, no.
by Sally Mitani
From the January, 2014 issue
In early December Hail Hookah looked like it was about to open. "The owners say next week. I'd guess a little longer than that," says Amar Dalal, whose company Delmar Restorations has overseen the conversion of the derelict Firefly Club to hookah lounge. One of the final hurdles is building a handicap ramp. The elevator the Ark put in when it occupied the building years ago finally broke.
This is Dalal's seventh hookah lounge (his first in Ann Arbor), and he knows Michigan's smoking and food laws backwards and forwards. If you've heard that hookah lounges can't sell food, that's not strictly true. "You can't sell prepped food," he corrects. Food in sealed packets or containers is okay--chips, sodas, and the like. A smile plays around Dalal's lips as he describes some of the sillier details of Michigan's 2010 Smoke Free Air Law. "Food is OK as long as you [the customer] make it yourself." Hence the Keurig coffeemaker: "You buy the little pod, you put it in, you press the button. You've made yourself a cup of coffee! But the staff here can't make coffee. Also Hot Pockets: they're okay because you nuke them yourself."
While that might be legal, it's not what will be happening at Hail Hookah. "We're not bypassing the law," co-owner Bernard Arabo emphasized in a February phone call. "There's no Keurig machine, no frozen food. We're going to be standing by the no-smoking-and-food law. It's just a lounge where people can come and study, enjoy themselves, and relax."
The large space has fifteen TVs with low-slung sofas and sturdy library-quality tables and chairs. It's a sports bar without the booze or a cafe without the fancy coffee.
Secondhand smoke shouldn't be a problem, says Dalal: Hail Hookah's owners-- John Saroki, Bernard Arabo, and Marius Essak--have spent more than $70,000 on a ventilation system. Dalal gives a tour of the back room, where dozens of canisters of sticky fruit-flavored hookah tobacco sit on shelves--pumpkin pie, peach, strawberry: "Hookah smoke is like flavored air anyway."
Hail Hookah, 637 S. Main, 444-4245. Sun.-Thurs. noon-2 a.m., Fri. & Sat. noon-4 a.m. hailhookahaa.com
This article has been edited since it appeared in the January 2014 Ann Arbor Observer. Comments from co-owner Bernard Arabo were added, and the headline was revised.]
[Originally published in January, 2014.]
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