St. Olaf Students Seeking Partners in Business Venture

A group of St. Olaf students interested in starting a Hookah establishment somewhere in maintown Northfield are searching for local investors to take part in startup costs and eventual profits. 

The location would consist of multiple seating areas, around 10-15 total each being about 6-8 square feet in both width and length.  While the original hope was to have this idea stand alone, we recognize the need for other business to keep it on its feet, the idea of including dining alongside has been considered though expertise on the subject would be needed for advisory.  There would also be a third venture running in the background namely, it would be decorated with appropriate artwork done by local residents and St. Olaf and Carleton students.

A business similar to this one is currently doing quite well for itself in the suburbs of Chicago, and we hope to see the same success as we are not too far out of the cities. 

The idea offers a new brand of culture for Northfield and could attract business from the cities as well.  The students, in the beginning stages, are planning on hiring solely college students as an alternative work source to on campus work.  Asuming the project takes off, Northfield residents would also be included in the hiring part or full-time.  The hookah is a water pipe that is common in many middle eastern and arabic speaking countires and has found a new following on the local college campuses.

 Anyone interested or desiring to hear some of the finer details, should contact Alex Walker.  Thank you and good day.



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Water pipes for...?

For clarification and to dispel misconceptions, could you please clarify how the water pipe would be used in a legal manner? I know I instantly thought of something a little different than the probable intention. :)


Alexander J. Beeby
Father, Friend, Citizen

The love that dare not speak it's b-name

Flavored tobacco, cloves, etc.

Sure, it sounds strange, but then again I still think that people don't need 16 choices of coffee.

Sounds Great

I'm not a smoker, but it sounds like a great community building idea. Perhaps yerba mate could also be available for people like me.

I know some other people who might be interested, and will let them know.

Alas, I lack the deep pockets to contribute. Actually, I have deep but empty pockets.

Alexander J. Beeby
Father, Friend, Citizen

I'm not a smoker of any

I'm not a smoker of any type, Alex, but I don't think this is any different than the kinds of tobacco pipes my dad used to smoke. They're just more elaborate and use water. See the Wikipedia entry for Hookah.


  I'll come straight out and say it but yes, the water pipe concept is nearly identical to the bhong.  There it's been said.  But now for further clarification, the substance used with the water pipe is not hashish a.k.a. pot a.k.a. weed a.k.a. etc.  Instead the main ingredient Shisha, a tobacco product, is altered accordingly to give it taste such as fruits, chocolate, coffee, spices, and much more. 

  The event usually involves people coming into the location sitting down around a table with the Hookah and passing around the nozzle that people breath in through giving them the flavored and scented smoke.  The principle reason for having it as a water pipe as opposed to a typical pipe is that it creates a more humid and thick product that gives off enormous flavor.

   So while the obvious similarity between a bhong and hookah exists, the material used and the reason they are used are much different.  Consequentially, since it includes the sale of a tobacco produt, the hookah place would be off limits to all under 18, so sorry High Schoolers, but hey wait a couple years and the smoke will be all the sweeter.


Where do I begin?

Personal liberty aside where do I begin to comment on what a stunningly bad idea such a thing as this is? Has not the dangers of tobacco use in *any* form, flavored or otherwise, been documented well enough? Is a "Hookah establishment" something to be proud of and included in our Chamber of Commerce literature? Is the clientele for this establishment the ideal choice of those we wish to share our town with? Just over a year ago I watched my Father die of emphysema struggling for his last breath as the result of tobacco use for the previous 55 years. If some of the youth who are over 18 wish to smoke a Hookah in the privacy of their own home that is their choice to make. I guarantee that if they persist in such practices they will pay the price with their life and their health and sorely regret this choice.

Consequences acknowledged

  Edward I'll start off in saying that I can empathize with your losses as I have also lost a few relatives through emphysema and a few more to lung cancer, and even one to mouth cancer, as he was very fond of the chewy tabacco.  With this in mind, I persist in my efforts at starting the hookah bar.  Here's why:

  Unlike cigarrettes Shisha is a non-addictive tobacco, no nasty nicotene and happily, no tar, one of the major killers when it comes to cigarettes.  Now granted, the smoke is still a health hazard but there's another way to think about this.  While cigarrettes are a daily hobby, this is not.  Hookahs are first of all, not a huge dose of tobacco as it is roughly the same amount as used in a pipe, and that amount is typically shared among a group of people, not smoked by one person alone as it is with a pipe or cigarrette.  Secondly, the lack of Nicotine also eliminates the chemical addiction aspect of the tobacco, and while other substances in cigarrettes add to their addictiveness, though considerably less, the shisha is only related in that it involves tobacco.  So we're not marketing a product that will have them coming back to us through chemical dependency but rather for the sake of trying new flavors and for the relaxed atmosphere we hope to provide.

  If anyone is going to smoke, which I agree, isn't the best health choice one can make, for their sake, I'd rather they smoke with the Hookah as opposed to cigarrettes. 

    Finally, I don't forsee the same people coming here everyday, thus the smoking will be a social and consequently situational happening.  This will be probably for most a once a month thing, though for some it may be more often, though I'd find it hard that anyone's hookah smoking habits will ever rival the health hazards offered by those of a cigarrette addiction.  I myself have never smoked and only smoke the hookah occasionally.  However, the availabilty of hookahs in Northfield is very limited, as you probably could imagine, and so, to solve this problem for others, we would open up this establishment, saving them the cost of buying their own, while at the same time providing entertainment for all those interesting in trying something new.  (Eventually, if the dining thing works out, the draw may turn less form hookahs to food, but hey, that'll always be the dream.)





Good Point

I was focussing purely on the community aspect of the idea, but your point is of utmost validity. The health aspect didn't even cross my mind. Such a place -- especially if it is as popular as it would hope -- would certainly provide significant temptation to take up, or not stop, the practice of smoking. No, I don't expect this would be the kind of establishment we (the community) would want to promote.

That said, should/could an establishment that caters to a specific demographic (smokers) be prevented? That's a much more complex question.

Alexander J. Beeby
Father, Friend, Citizen

Life is dangerous - wear a helmet

Beebs said: "That said, should/could an establishment that caters to a specific demographic (smokers) be prevented? That's a much more complex question."

For the sake of Liberty, I pray not.

Can't resist...

Gurno says:

"For the sake of Liberty, I pray not."

That is exactly where the complexity comes in: liberty v. democracy. This is a question that has been debated for, literally, centuries.

Alexander J. Beeby
Father, Friend, Citizen

One Vote Against...

While I fully support anyone that wants to open a small business in Northfield, I would have to say that I would be adamantly against an establishment such as this in Northfield, especially in downtown.

One could say that Flavored Tobacco is just as legal as alcohol and cigarettes, but it’s still a hazard to the youth of Northfield.

What kind of restrictions would we have to keep minors out of this establishment?
The next thing that would occur is that this establishment would want to sell tobacco and smoking accessories. The latter could have a dual use, and that would not be acceptable.

I take this quote from the Wikipedia:
“A Hookah smoking is particularly popular in the Arab Middle East where sheesha-parlours (coffee shops) attract their clientele with an almost irresistible waft of scented tobacco, luring people inside for an evening of cards, backgammon and, of course, smoking. Nowadays, hookah-smoking is a seemingly unbreakable social habit, which, despite a vigorous anti-smoking lobby, is growing in popularity, especially among non-Arabs.”
I have a problem with the “irresistible waft of scented tobacco” part. I am a non-smoker, and get quite ill from the smell of tobacco. That is the last thing I would want to expose myself and my family to in the downtown environment.

I have a problem with the “irresistible waft of scented tobacco” part. I am a non-smoker, and get quite ill from the smell of tobacco. That is the last thing I would want to expose myself and my family to in the downtown environment.

I am also questioning what kind of “culture” and “business from the cities” you are describing? Can you elaborate?

Count me as against... I will be there when you try to get this past Planning and Zoning.  

Not backgammon!

bq. John Thomas: _The next thing that would occur is that this establishment would want to sell tobacco and smoking accessories. The latter could have a dual use, and that would not be acceptable._

Tiny's already sells a full line of smoking accessories, which has yet to lead to a Sodom-like destruction of the town.


  Here are the restrictions we have to keep the youth of Northfield out...

  First off Tobacco CANNOT be sold to anyone under 18, and as this is the main premise of the place, we'd ask for ID from anyone trying to get in.  Everyone who even wants to come in and sit down or breath the air, must be 18.  That's that.  All youth will be out of luck.

    Secondly, we will not be selling any other tobacco products besides sheesha.  We will never progress ro lower ourselves (depending on your opinion) to selling cigarrettes etc.  While we don't regard them as evil, we don't support that kind of smoking, as the sole point and stated purpose of those tobacco companies is to sell Nicotene an addictive substance.

    Thirdly, in no way is the smell of sheesha "irresistible".  That is a bad editorial comment used by wikipedia, and you'll notice they also through in "almost" before it.  In no way is the smell of sheesha irresistible, its not.  Really, the point of the flavored tobacco is not that you taste/smell it after you've exhaled it, but whilen its still in your mouth and when you inhaled it.  After exhalation, the smoke is more like steam, virtually scentless.  (there will be no gamlbing, cars, or backgammon, just thought i'd say that).  Also, please notice the language used in the last part of the wikipedia definition for hookah that was cited, proving its sometimes poor writing.  Now while I myself use wikipedia all the time, I will be the first one to admit, that the definitions aren't always without error (after all it's the encyclopedia that anybody can edit, so wihle these people thought they were making the hookah seem more appealing by embellishing the "irresistible scents" they were in fact in a way doing the hookah some injusticce by adding their own editorial perspective).  When they say the hookah habit is "seemingly unbreakable" that is a gross exhaggeration.  The amount of nicotene present in a dose of sheesha is 0.5% compared to the 1.2 % of cigarrettes.  Also, there is absolutely NO tar.  0.0% of tar, or if there is any tar it's such a small amount 0.01% or so that it doesn't register (in contrast to the typical cigarrettes 16 milligrams of tar..  If you'll read on the wikipedia article claims that because of the way the Hookah works, people actually inhale more nicotene than normal cigarrette smokers (where a clearly labeled "needs citation" sign has been assigned by wikipedia)  If you'll notice the works cited page, there is only one author cited, and while I won't attack his integrity, I will mention that if you notice his articles, you'll also notice the "corrections" that are submitted afterwards.  Besides, anyone who comes in to smke the hookah should be aware that it is a tobacco product and therefore not without helath risks.

     Thridly, or fourthly for those who are counting, just to address Griff Wigley's comment that the water pipe seems very similar to the traditional pipe that his father used to smoke.  This is true, the concepts are very very similar.  There are three main differences that need to  be recognized.  1) the hookah uses only a little bit, maybe a pinch or two more of tobacco than a normal pipe, but is smoked by about 3-5 people.  That is 1 person's dose of tobacco is smoked by about 4 people.  Besides not smoking, if there was any way to cut down on the health effects of smoking a pipe, this has got to be one of the best.  2)  The way the water pipe works with the air blown through the water causing the smoke to have more moisture provides a very different kind of smoke. This makes the smoke less acrid and more like steam.  Though yes, its still smoke. 3) We should consider how frequently people would be smoking a hookah, a point I addressed earlier.  As people will not own the hookahs themselves they will not have the opportunity to smoke them whenever they want.  Such is not the case when one owns a pipe.  So a hookah offers less danger, less often.

    Finally, the idea wasn't necessarily for downtown, you'll notice my exact words were maintown, which i took to mean downtown, but also a strip of highway 3 running by Target and such.  While I understand the desire not to have it in downtown with the concerns that you voiced, I also woul,d like you to reconsider after reading some of the misconceptions that wikipedia has caused.


I am all in favor of any suggestions you have for keeping youth out, for making people aware of the health risks associated with tobacco products.  While I aruge in favor of the hookah, as I am still hoping to open the business, I must acknowledge the health consequences.  And I do, I am hoping for as much helpful advice on the subject as possible.  The more you all pick away at the idea, the more I have to think about the concerns you have, and I thank you for that.  I knew this wouldn't be an easy sell, but I definitely want to hear your comments and concerns, so please keep them coming.




Jury's still out...

I need more information. When looking at it from a public health perspective, the positive benefits of social engagement at hookah bars might offset the negative effects of tobacco use, especially in our "bowling alone" culture. Does anyone have any information about any studies done on this form of tobacco use?


While there are some studies that argue against hookah's being better than cigarrettes:

there are also those that say hookahs are a safer alternative:

All major shisha manufacturers have nicotine listed at 0.5% and tar listed at 0.0%. On a pack of Marlboro Full Flavor 100's Filter Soft Pack, there is 16 miligrams of tar and 1.2 miligrams of nicotine (these numbers are listed on the philip moriss website, Most cigarettes contain over 2.0% in nicotine. "Among the findings, Marlboro had as much as 9.6 percent freebase nicotine; Camel contained 2.7 percent; Winston had 5 percent to 6.2 percent; and Gauloises Blondes was found to have 5.7 percent to 7.5 percent." ("'Freebase' Nicotine Thought to Make Cigarettes More Addictive
" 30 July. 2003. August. 2004))


The important fact is that shisha is still a tobacco product and certain regulations must be put into place to restrict youth, but the average customer should also be reminded of the consequences.




While I understand the need for discussion on this proposed business in Northfield, I am puzzled by some of the objections.  Has anyone been to the bowling alley on a Tuesday night?  Liquor is served, there is a fog of smoke around the kids of all ages accompanied and unaccompanied by adults as they bowl for a $1.  There is definitly underage smoking going on with no intervention. 

I am assuming that no one has questioned this practice of overlooking the regulations because bowling is traditionally seen as a healthy, all american sport.  My kids all come home smelling so smoky that I have asked them in the past to leave their coats out in the garage to air out.

Robbie Wigley

What a great learning experience!

Lex, you and your friends are about to get a college-level course in capitalism, with extra credit in public relations, marketing and political science. And all the heat (or hot air) this is generating is a fun way to warm up a cold winter weekend.
I'd love to see your business plan. Selling coffee, a hugely accepted drug of choice for this culture, still won't cover the rent without food, lots of snappy promotions and boundless determination -- and a drive-through window helps.
It seems your venture may be better suited to the Mary Kay home party model, or perhaps a new spin on the classic pizza delivery service. Get some rugs and a stack of floor pillows, stash the hookah and tobacco inventory in a sturdy case, and take the party to the apartments of like-minded consumers. You can hold down your startup costs while you build your clientele and operating capital, putting you in a better position to go to investors. Using independent contractors on commission instead of employees also will hold down personnel costs and avoid potential unionization battles.
Couple of points:
If you don't have a business plan, you can get one at -- no kidding.
Even AlJezeerah, the Arab news source, has articles touting the dangers of the hookah.( So you might want to check your liability insurance for your customers and workers.
The directory of hookah lounges ( indicates that most are in much larger markets and most are part of cafes. But it seems many are thriving, even in places like Arizona and Florida, where retired white Midwesterners too old to sit on the floor presumably have to lean on their walkers as they inhale. And it seems that even Las Vegas is surviving the trend with its tourism trade if not its virtue intact.
Can't wait to see how this turns out.

Another take on it

I like Anne's "portable party" idea. Here's another angle - have a hookah bar at one end of the premises, and an oxygen bar on the other. Or maybe you could get someone to fabricate a system that delivers oxygen via a hookah, or something that looks and acts like one. Or would it take all the fun out of it if you were inhaling something that was actually good for you?

A More Refined idea

  Thank you Anne, for the marvelous suggestion.  This is a very possbile and seemingly wise proposal, and for all intents and purposes may very well be what we resort to for the first few months to test the waters (and the water pipes...made a funny).  We have definitely considered the insurance aspect and suspect it will have to be pretty good for at least the first couple of years while we get the hang of it and people are fairly new to the idea.

    I am well aware of the importance of selling food to help the business thrive, although the Hookah establishment located near Chicago prides itself on surviving mainly off of its Hookah earned revenues and not the delicious food they serve.  With that in mind, we are definitely still looking around for an investor that may aid us with their knowledge of food services, and have some potential ideas as the atmosphere lends itself not only to the Middle Eastern hookah custom but also their cuisine.  Supposing the cooking is good enough, it may go as far as to resemble the local Indian eatery with the added feature of hookahs for desert or pre-meal enjoyment. 

   As for the idea of including an oxygen bar alongside, that is a very interesting proposal and admittedly it hadn't even crossed my mind.  I can't find any error in it, since if people are willing to smoke a hookah, why not purer and sometimes flavored oxygen?  Very good point, and I'll look into that as an idea for inclusion.  The one safety issue I found (i know a guy talking aobut opening a hookah bar talking about safety) is the presence of pressurized air tanks.  While stationary they're no hazard though the explosive capacity is disturbing.  Dealing with pressurized tanks is tricky business and not at all foreign to me (I'm a SCUBA Divemaster and have had my share of pressurized air.)

     Thank you for the wonderful suggestions Anne, and once the business plan is formulated I would be more than happy to send you a copy.  For now, I'm still seeking out food advice and possible investors.  Thank you all for your wonderful input, it has been a very helpful guide to what I'll be dealing with in the future.



hookah bar

I admire your spirit.  Here's my free advice, fwiw.

I spent a rather enjoyable evening in a hookah bar in Tempe, AZ.  Cigarette smoking was forbidden within the establishment.  The population in attendance was mostly olive-skinned young families.    We had some meze and a coffee.  There was belly dancing, which was an interesting feature unto itself.  Then Turkish disco music.  After I left, I did not reek of smoke, nor have a smoke-inhalation hangover.  I recommend the experience overall, even though I am an ex smoker and thus could not participate in the hookah directly.

That establishment was in a metro area of ~ a million people, less than a mile from a university campus comparable in size to university of MN.  As much as I might value the presence of an exotic locale in our city to remind me of earlier adventures, I can't see it being a commercial success here. Plus you will be hounded to death by well-intentioned folk who will mistrust it as an opium den and a foreign one at that.  Trust me, I would much rather see the 'youth' of Northfield smoking hookahs and cultivating faux osmanlilik, than to be smoking Marlboros and living the authentic redneck.  Even so, it is difficult for me to see how you would make enough money to stay open.

Feel free to prove me wrong with your success, however.