MARIETTA - Hoping to give residents and college students something different to do in downtown Marietta, a resident of the city has opened a hookah lounge on Front Street.
Located at 122 Front St., Rajah's Den Hookah Lounge is a place where people can go to smoke flavored tobacco, spend time with friends and make new ones, says its owner.
It is open from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 4 p.m. to 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Its first day of business was April 20, according to owner Ian McKain.
From left, Aaron Dennis, Joshua Denton, Shawn Bloomfield and Brianna Tornes smoke flavored tobacco using hookahs at Rajah’s Den Hookah Lounge at 122 Front St. in Marietta. The business opened April 20 and offers 22 different flavors of tobacco for smoking. (Photo by Ashley Rittenhouse)
"Essentially it is a calm atmosphere kind of place during the day and during the night it's a nightlife kind of scene," said McKain, 21. "Marietta doesn't have anything like this."
McKain said he charges per hookah, with three people sharing one hookah.
A hookah is a tobacco pipe with a long, flexible tube that draws the smoke through water contained in a bowl.
A single flavor costs $12, two mixed flavors cost $14 and three mixed flavors cost $15.
Though Ohio has an indoor smoking ban for most businesses, those that get 80 percent of their revenue from tobacco and tobacco products are exempt from the law, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
The health risks of using tobacco at a hookah lounge are the same that exist for smoking, including an increased risk of cancer, heart disease and decreased lung capacity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The mode of smoking also means those using a hookah may absorb a higher concentration of the toxins in tobacco, according to the CDC.
McKain said there are 22 different flavors of tobacco available at the lounge, including one that tastes like Skittles and others that are orange, grape and apple flavored.
Lowell resident Brianna Tornes said the Skittles flavor is her favorite. Tornes, 22, has already been to the business multiple times.
Prior to visiting McKain's hookah lounge, she had never been to one.
"I thought it was going to be like cigarette tobacco, but it's fruity," Tornes said.
"I always thought hookah bars were a hippie thing but I changed my opinion on that."
"We don't have anything like this in Marietta," she added, as she sat with a group of friends in the lounge Thursday. "We don't go to drinking bars - it's loud and you can't talk."
McKain said he opened the hookah lounge with hopes of giving those who don't like going to bars a different option.
"I have a lot of people that come who don't drink and they want something to do on the weekends or at night," he said.
"If they go to a bar everybody's drunk and they don't want to be around drunk people."
McKain noted he came up with the idea for opening a hookah lounge in Marietta after visiting hookah lounges in other places like Morgantown and Washington, D.C.
"I've gotten good responses. I've been constant so far with my business," he said. "I haven't been maxed out yet but there's definitely interest - I have regulars already."
McKain said he sees an equal number of college students and local residents. Mallory Greenham, executive director of the ReStore Marietta organization, said she's happy to see that college students have another reason to go downtown.
"We like to see the college kids come downtown more - sometimes we think they stay on campus," she said.
"I think it's nice to have a little bit of diversity downtown and something different, something new," Greenham added.
Lowell resident Aaron Dennis, 23, said he also likes that it's something unique.
"I like that it gives the town more culture," he said.
Dennis was at the lounge Thursday smoking with friends.
"It's like a refined tobacco ... it's a nice way to relax at the end of the day," he said.
McKain said he is renting the building that houses the business from Tina Thomas. He said Ace Lock Safe & Security Company was the last business in the building and that was two years ago.
"In the future I'd like to have open mic nights and karaoke nights and make it almost a music venue and have shows and bring the community into it and try to support local artists," he said.