Dark rich paint and modern art pieces cover the wall. Two large, hand-carved tiki men tower in the corners. Four couches and seven loveseats line the walls. The back wall, behind the counter, is lined with 30 hookahs and spare hoses.
This is a stark contrast from the antique shop that used to occupy 5 W. Second St. in Downtown Washington. The space has been transformed into a modern, sleek hookah lounge, Soguk Hookah Lounge (pronounced sook).
Owner Justin Miller, who is from Washington, but currently resides in St. Charles, plans to open the lounge Feb. 1 with the help of his fiancee Lyndsey Bateman.
After high school, Miller joined the military. While on leave in Daytona Beach, Fla., he smoked his first hookah with a friend.
“We tried it. We loved it,” he said. “I decided I wanted to open a lounge and the first place I thought of doing it was in my hometown.”
Miller said the closest hookah lounge is in St. Louis.
“I’ve always liked downtown,” he said. “Washington has always been a part of my life. Everything here is near and dear to my heart.”
How It Works
With hookah, a wet tobacco flavored with honey and molasses, called shisha (she-sha), is essentially baked in a ceramic bowl with a coal on top. Smoke is run through a water base to cool the smoke and make it more enjoyable and pleasant.
It is smoked through a hose with a mouthpiece at the top. The mouthpiece is passed from person to person and sterilized after each group.
Typically, about three people share one hookah and it lasts for about two hours.
“Washington is famous for its corn cob pipes. Grandpa sat on his porch and smoked a pipe. Out of his pipe he smoked flavored tobacco. Basically, all we’re doing is improving on Grandpa’s method,” Miller said.
Shisha comes in flavors like Red Bull, watermelon, chocolate mint, pina colada and Miller’s favorite — white gummy bear.
“It tastes like you’re eating a hundred gummy bears at once,” he said. “It really is enjoyable. It’s flavorful.”
Miller noted that there aren’t as many harmful elements in hookah smoke as in other forms of smoke.
There are traces of nicotine, but hookah isn’t addictive like cigarettes, he said. Additionally, there is no tar in shisha.
Soguk Is Born
The lounge is named after a product Miller invented. The soguk, named after the Turkish word for cold, is an ice tip created for hookahs. The tip cools the smoke to intensify the flavor and make it more enjoyable, he explained.
The product is now available in six continents.
Miller also owns a retail hookah shop in St. Charles, Soguk, where he sells the tips and other hookah supplies.
At the Soguk Hookah Lounge here, the Soguk ice tip will be complimentary.
Hookah lounges are popular in other countries, namely in Middle Eastern cultures. Hookah lounges are the fastest growing lounges in the United States, Miller said, yet he understands there may be some concerns.
First, hookah is completely legal, Miller noted. It is just smoking tobacco.
“Soguk will be very strict,” he said. “We won’t tolerate anything negative.”
Miller will require hookahs be rented from the lounge and shisha be purchased there. Each person will have their own tip so germs aren’t spread by the mouthpiece.
Additionally, he will have an open-door policy with the police department and city officials.
Miller encourages anyone who has questions to stop in and he will explain the process. He said his goal is simply to provide something new and unique to Downtown Washington and the community, and offer a place for friends to socialize and make new friends.
The atmosphere will be laid back and relaxing, he said, not loud like clubs or bars. Refreshments will be available, however, no alcohol will be served.
Hours for Soguk Hookah Lounge have not yet been set. A soft opening will be announced at a later date.
For more information, people can visit sogukhookah.com or Soguk Hookah Lounge on Facebook.