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Rapid Hookah Lounge Closes; Can’t Handle Business Fundamentals

Last updated on 2012.06.25

Classified Hookah didn't last long in Rapid City... and there doesn't appear to be a single government regulation we can blame. Instead, conservatives looking for another smoky cause célèbre will have to blame the tyranny of the mob—also known as neighbors seeking to live amicably in community—and a business owner who can't follow his lease.

Classified Hookah and neighboring hookah lounge Sahara Nights made the news last week for stinking up the Buell Building in downtown Rapid. Other Buell tenants complained. A make-up shop owner found the lingering hookah smell so strong that she didn't open her doors for business one morning. A weight-loss coach griped that the smoke smell infringed on her ability to sell "wellness." Contacted by the press, Miami-based building owner Ron Bazac said he had to give the lounges a chance to improve their ventilation, but that creating a nuisance is a violation of the lease. Bazac says Classified Hookah told him they would only be selling hookahs, not operating them in a lounge setting. Oops.

Classified Hookah owner Trevor Schmidt must have reread his lease. He's getting out:

Classified Hookah in downtown Rapid City closed Wednesday and is selling off its furnishings and hookah supplies, its owner said.

"We're closed," owner Trevor Schmidt said. "We're shut down."

The lounge at 524 Seventh St. in the historic Buell Building recently raised the ire of its neighbors, who complained that loud music and the smell of hookah smoke were penetrating the building, irritating them and driving away customers.

"We're just looking to end the drama and relocate," Schmidt said. He said he would probably take the business to Sioux Falls [Barbara Soderlin, "Seventh Street Hookah Lounge Closes," Rapid City Journal, 2012.04.21].

The discussion of the closing on Facebook is, like so much of Facebook, predictably juvenile. One commenter equates the closing to bullying... because expecting your neighbors to follow their lease and not infringe on your rights is bullying. The bullying commenter also flies the race flag, saying her closed-minded neighbors oppose hookah because "it's not a white past [sic] time."

Classified Hookah didn't close because of bullying or racism. It closed because the owner thinks it's just too much drama to follow a couple basic business rules: respect your neighbors and follow your lease. Downtown Rapid City neighbors and landlord alike can now breathe a sigh of relief.

And for you poor tragic souls who think "hookah is the only thing young adults have to do in this town"... well, try opening your minds. Go out for dinner. See a movie. Go for a ride. You're in Rapid City, in the Black Hills! If you're telling me you can't find anything to do, either you're smoking something or you aren't trying.


  1. Mark 2012.04.22

    Hookah lounge... That's a business idea that cries out for a licensing requirement if there ever was one.

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.04.22

    There are at least some health code issues.

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