Buck Jennings wants to get one thing straight from the get-go: There will be no marijuana smoking in his Ninth Street Hookah Lounge.
“That won’t happen,” Jennings said.
“It has a very specific smell,” co-owner Marcia Davis added, “and if someone did do that, it would be over in a minute.”
“I hope people feel that they can come in, hang out and de-stress,” Davis said. “It’s a comfy, cozy place with big couches and fireplaces. There’s Wi-Fi, so people can study if they’d like. We want to keep it a nice, calm environment where you can visit with your friends and enjoy a great smoking experience.”
The city’s smoking ban created a loophole for shops that derive the majority of their income from selling tobacco products, so patrons can light up regular cigarettes when they’re not puffing on hookah pipes, which have long tubes that pass through a jar of water that cools the smoke.
Davis said she fell in love with a hookah lounge near her house in Chicago, and she and Jennings set out to open one of their own. While doing some research, Davis discovered that Columbia didn’t have a hookah lounge and has been ranked as the best city in Missouri to start a business.
For several years now, Dave Hestir has been selling hot dogs, Italian sausages, bratwurst and popcorn from a sidewalk cart hauled to various locations in Columbia with a lot of foot traffic. All that time, he’s been looking for an affordable indoor space to rent.
This winter, Hestir and the Wagner family, owners of Billiards on Broadway, came up with a cooperative venture. Hestir said he now has “a mothership,” a place indoors to grill and sell his dogs. The pool hall now has an expanded menu and will get marketing help from Hestir.