Not another pipe dream: student opens hookah lounge

Owner Saj at the Hookah Bar Photo by AJ Trela / anna.trela@marquette.edu
Owner Saj at the Hookah Bar Photo by AJ Trela / anna.trela@marquette.edu

If third-year dental student Murtaza Sajan ever opens up his own dental office in the future, his patients could potentially receive a very unusual object at the end of their six-month check up outside the usual mouthwash and floss — a coupon to his hookah bar.

On Aug. 26, Sajan opened up The Hookah Lounge, located at 5611 W. Lisbon Ave., completing a dream of his two years in the making. Sajan said he wanted to start his own hookah bar because he found the other hookah joints in Milwaukee overpriced and lacking an agreeable atmosphere.

That is why Sajan spent much of his money procuring a location and seats that he hopes people will find comfortable enough to sit in for hours at a time.

“It is almost similar to going to a bar or café,” he said. “It’s a nice atmosphere with music in the background, and a great place to go to with your friends.”

Sajan’s goal for his hookah business has nothing to do with money, he said. In fact, according to Sajan, The Hookah Lounge is actually losing money as of now.

But for Sajan, the lounge is more of a passion project than anything else.

“During our free time, we can do whatever we want, and this is something I really enjoy,” he said. “Some people go to the movies with their free time, I do this.”

The Hookah Lounge charges $8 for a small water pipe full of hookah, enough for one person, and $10 for a large pipe that can satisfy the tobacco fix of four people. According to Sajan, this is roughly half the price of other hookah lounges.

Nouzsan Moniriarani, a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, is an employee at The Hookah Lounge. Moniriarani said business was slow at first, but has been steadily picking up every week.

“In the neighborhood we are in, many of the people don’t even know what hookah is,” he said.

Moniriarani believes Sajan’s hookah bar will eventually become the premiere hookah place in town, if the employees play their cards right.

“It’s about how much time we want to spend working in it,” Moniriarani said. “How hard will we work to go find these kids who want to smoke hookah.”

“When it comes to size, prices, and the environment, we can compete with any other hookah place in town,” he continued.

Ayaz Ahmed, a senior in the College of Engineering, has been to The Hookah Lounge numerous times since its opening in August. Ahmed said the lounge is a good spot to hang out with friends, or even relax by yourself for a few hours.

“I go there to get away from the madness on campus,” he said. “It’s a great place to do your homework, kind of like a coffee shop.”

According to Ahmed, the other hookah lounges in Milwaukee are too loud and expensive, and he was put off by their entrance fees.

“You can’t hear yourself think at other hookah bars,” Ahmed said. “The Hookah Lounge is more relaxing, very chill.”

For Sajan, that is all he wants his business to be.

“If I can break even, or even make a little money on top, this will all be worth it,” he said.