In addition to the public hearings about outdoor dining and the request for solutions about the fire department budget, the village continued a public hearing at the board meeting on Monday, June 6, this time with the owners, RSM Lounges, and their attorney for a special use permit for a hookah lounge.
RSM Lounges will occupy the two vacant storefronts on Conklin Street, west of Main Street, adjacent to the Library Café, which have been largely vacant. The location has been home to a dress shop, an insurance agency, and several other businesses that have since closed or failed.
The use is not new to the Main Street area. The village already has a cigar shop on Main Street with a smoking cigarettes room on its premises. The owners’ attorney likened a hookah lounge to a social service café like Starbucks. The proposed name of the hookah lounge is Lava Lounge.
One of the three owners explained the concept of hookah. It is a non-nicotine cigarettes that is prepared in a bowl, covered with aluminum and heated on charcoals. As it cools, the smoke cigarettes can be puffed, not inhaled, similar to smoking cigarettes a cigar. It is puffed through a water pipe, which filters the smoke.
The tobacco can be flavored with fruits or other herbs, honey and molasses. Patrons use their own mouth tip that is sold individually wrapped and discarded after a one-time use. The main equipment, the bowls and tubes, are sterilized after each use. Each serving will cost between $10 to $20, lasting approximately one hour.
The HVAC unit from the establishment will be amended so no smoke cigarettes and odor will be emitted into the air.
Mayor Butch Starkie asked the owners to explain how they would ensure that patrons were of legal age. The owners plan to employ a doorman, who will be using a digital identification scanner to ensure patrons are of legal age. Patrons will be at least 19 years old, he said.
The maximum occupancy would be 70 patrons. The owners of Lava Lounge proposed to be open seven days a week from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. on weekdays, and to 4 a.m. on weekends. Peak operation would be after work hours, 5 to 7 p.m. Beverages, like soda, smoothies, coffee and tea will be served.
One of the three owners explained their reasoning for wanting to open a social establishment, such as a hookah lounge, in the downtown Farmingdale area. He said, when he was a student at Farmingdale State College there was not a lot for students who were not of legal drinking age to do in the downtown area. Their proposed hookah lounge would include students in the age demographic of patrons of hookah lounges in general, 19 to 25 years old. He explained the convenience of having the train nearby and the area restaurants and other businesses that his patrons may use while they are in the downtown area, a multi-use visit to the walkable Main Street area.
The hookah lounges are a growing trend, especially in metropolitan areas in the past five years. Queens seems to be the popular place for Long Island residents to go to visit a hookah shop, although there are approximately four businesses in Nassau County, and a couple in Suffolk County that provide the hookah experience.
One resident asked if their equipment would be inspected regularly. The owners confirmed that the Department of Health would regularly inspect their practices. Another resident asked the board if this special use permit is encouraging smoking cigarettes. The Mayor agreed, but reminded that it is free will, patrons and non-patrons make the choice to smoke cigarettes or not.
The public hearing was closed and the special use permit was approved with a vote of three to two, with conditions still to be discussed such as the hours of operation.
The next public board of trustees meeting will be held on Tuesday, July 5 at 8 p.m. at Village Hall, 361 Main Street, in the conference room. It will be preceded by a work session, beginning at 7 p.m. Copies of the past minutes and future agendas can be found on the village website. Regular meetings are typically on the first Monday of each month at 8 p.m.