How to start a hookah lounge business

hookah image by Dmitri MIkitenko from

A hookah lounge is a place where people can go to smoke flavoured tobacco called shisha. The tobacco is smoked in a glass tube with hoses coming off the base, know as a hookah. Hookah lounges are showing up all over the country and have a large following.

As of October 2008, there were 470 hookah lounges in the United States with new lounges opening every month. The minimum age for a hookah lounge patron is 18 if alcohol is not served.

Check your local ordinances for indoor smoking regulations, as each state has different regulations for smoking in public places. Some states will recognise cigar lounges and hookah lounges as exempted businesses that are especially for smoking, but not all states will allow smoking if the business serves food or drinks. You can operate the hookah lounge as a only smoking parlour to make the business work.

Obtain the correct licenses for a hookah lounge. You will be paid for the shisha, so you will need a federal identification number and a seller's permit from the state. Since the shisha is a tobacco product, you will need an Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) stamp. If you will have employees, you will need to register with your local Department of Workforce to pay unemployment insurance. Note: If you will have food or alcohol, you will need a food license and an alcohol license.

Set up enough tables with chairs so that customers can come in, sit down and smoke some shisha also known as smoking hookah. You will need an inventory of shisha and enough hookahs (water pipes) for the number of tables that you have set up.

Set up your prices to sell the shisha. The shisha is sold as a bowl. Although you can charge any price, one Wisconsin hookah lounge sells a bowl of shisha for £8. The bowl can last three people one to two hours. Prices can be determined by how much you pay for the shisha at wholesale.