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New hookah lounge opens downtown

Staff Writer

Published: Friday, February 18, 2011

Updated: Friday, February 18, 2011 02:02

HookahLounge

Jeff Carpenter/Cardinal Points

Junaidz Hookah Lounge opened Jan. 20 on 12 Brinkerhoff St. With the help of his father, PSUC student Junaid Tarar opened his business where Oraja Hookah lounge used to be after it closed at the end of 2010.

Plattsburgh State students make up 90 percent of the customers stopping by Junaidz Hookah Lounge in downtown Plattsburgh to relax, smoke hookah and drink tea.

The lounge is fashioned in Eastern décor to give customers the feeling they've stepped into another era, said Junaid Tarar, owner of the lounge and current criminal justice major at PSUC.

Tarar opened the lounge's doors located at 12 Brinkerhoff St. Jan. 20. 

The previous Oraja Hookah Lounge closed, partly due to the New York state tax increase on tobacco products, as well as the license to sell tobacco fees, James Catafalmo, owner of the Oraja Hookah Lounge, said. 

He had owned the previous lounge for over a year before he was hit with some unanticipated expenses.

"I didn't expect the license (fee) increase. That caught me by surprise," he said.  PSUC students contributed 98 percent of the business at Oraja, which closed at the end of 2010.

There is no money to be made selling tobacco in New York, Catafalmo said. The increase in tobacco taxes is only hurting the state because many smokers are going elsewhere to purchase their tobacco products, he said. This is why he doesn't plan on getting back into the business.

Tarar said, customers can choose between 30 different authentic herbals instead of tobacco products at Junaidz. The herbs come in a variety of exotic flavors, such as Blue Mist, Safari Melon and Sex on the Beach. 

"It's totally legal," Tarar said. "I don't want any problems because I am an anti-smoker myself."

PSUC student Kerry Mowbray said he doesn't mind whether there is tobacco or herbs inside his hookah.  He used to frequent the Oraja lounge, mostly to hang out with the guys in his prospective fraternity for a fun night of karaoke.

"It was a relaxing environment," Mowbray said.

Last Friday, more than 80 customers came to lounge. Tara wants to expand his business, which he hopes will attract a variety of customers with live bands and karaoke nights, he said.

 "That's probably the best chance at getting people there," Mowbray said.

Tarar has been receiving financial support from his father, who has previous experience with real-estate and business ownership, to assist in operating the lounge.  It has been very beneficial, Tarar said. 

Receiving additional support from his father toward his business has allowed him to charge lower prices for his products. Tarar said he charges $15 per hookah, which can serve three people or more, and $2.50 for a cup of tea.

"I'm not here to make money," he said. "I'm very empathetic to students because I am one," he said. 

For information on upcoming performances and events visit Junaidz Hookah Lounge on Facebook.

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