Hookah Lounge offers patrons ‘social place’

Paul Equihua, junior music education major, smokes peach tobacco at the 12

51 Hookah Lounge. The lounge offers more than 25 flavors.

Paul Equihua, junior music education major, smokes peach tobacco at the 12

Nathan Carter

Entering 12:51 Hookah Lounge is more than enough to surpass anyone’s expectations.

12:51 Hookah Lounge offers a clean and relaxing atmosphere. For non-smokers, the smell of smoke is pleasantly absent. The tan, painted walls and the lights make the place easy for the eyes. The décor draws from Asian and Middle Eastern cultures, which is nice as well as sensible; the hookah originated in the Middle East.

Hookahs have a very different filtering system than a cigarette. The tobacco sits in a clay or ceramic bowl on top. When the smoker sucks on the pipe, the coals on the top bake the tobacco and send the smoke down a tube. At the bottom of the tube, the smoke is cooled by the “ice cold” water and then moves back up the tube and out of the hose. A cigarette has an inch long piece of paper protecting the smoker from the chemicals.

The reason 12:51 Hookah Lounge exceeds expectations is because owners Joe, Adrian, and Margarita Gonzalez have strived to provide a sanitary environment and up to date technology.

“There is an air filter in the ceiling,” said Adrian Gonzalez as he pointed out the exact spot. “It’s up there where the red light is.”

Other technology used by 12:51 Hookah Lounge includes a surround-sound stereo speaker system, three high-definition televisions, and a Nintendo Wii. They also provide wi-fi connections, pay-per view events and live music on Thursdays. Regular artists who perform include Adam Francis, Jimmy Adams and Never Shout Never.

“They tend to bring out the crowds,” said Adrian Gonzalez.

The Gonzalez family is from California, where hookah lounges are common. Hookah lounges are social establishments for people between the ages of 18 and 21. “If you’re 18, you can’t go to 21-and-over places,” said Adrian. It’s more of a social place where people can talk.”

The Gonzalez’s have also strived to do correctly what they believe is wrong with the hookah lounges on the West Coast. “If you go into other hookah lounges and go into their restrooms,” said Joe Gonzalez, “its not good, but if you go into our bathrooms, they’re clean. You won’t find other restrooms that clean.”

One thing 12:51 Hookah Lounge does to protect users is its policy on the use of new mouthpieces. The hoses are washed after every use, but the mouthpieces are thrown away to prevent the spread of germs. Another is that only two hoses are hooked up to each hookah.

“We usually do only three to one hookah for sanitary reasons,” said Adrian Gonzalez.

The hookah smoke is different from a cigarette’s in many ways. A hookah’s tobacco contains .05 percent nicotine, while cigarettes contain .08 to .1 percent depending on the brand. Hookah tobacco only has nicotine and flavored syrup added, so there is no tar involved, and there is more flavor. 12:51 Hookah Lounge offers more than 25 flavors of tobacco, and they can mix and match different flavors.

According to Adrian Gonzalez, the health risk of smoking on a hookah still exists.

“There is a myth that it’s safer than cigarettes and it’s not,” he said. “The smoke is smoother, but it is still harmful to your health.”

12:51 Hookah Lounge is located in the Village Plaza on 7th Street. It costs $5 to enter for non-smokers, or $12 for a bowl of tobacco and to rent a hookah.