Are East Village Hookah Bars The New Fronts? Is This Some Sort Of Pyramid Scheme?

The East Village is full of hookah bars and yet hookah bars are never full of East Villagers. What up? The inappropriate preponderance of hookah bars is an unimpeachable fact. We count nearly 15 in the strict East Village, each most notable for its complete total lack of patrons. Sure, we see why it seems like a good idea to open up a shisha lounge: a nice detour around no-smoking laws, low overhead, no kitchen needed, smoking is fun. But, the demand for a good hookah bar is limited to 15 or 20 NYU students who relish long discussions about Walker Percy while enjoying a delightful apple-scented tobacco.

You'd think maybe there'd be a little traffic; there is after all that mosque on 1st and 11th. But even though Sahara East (the most successful hookah bar and on the same block as the Madina Masjid) prospers, tens of other ones remain barren. Try the new one on First Ave that popped up as soon as the ill-fated health food store Prana Foods shuttered. Or the recently opened hookah lounge on E. 3rd Street, in which never a soul has been seen.

Perhaps the most tragic and illustrative of all hookah bars is Maradona on Allen Street. Granted, that block has been, with the exception of Pal , the bane of any commercial enterprise—but Maradona was around for seriously a matter of days before the owners simply gave up and posted the world's saddest handwritten-on-posterboard sign in the window bidding adieu to its "many customer." And, so one hookah bar bit the dust. Soon, more will rise in its stead.

[Photo by Goldberg [Flickr]