What happens with Hookah Lounge Business all over the world during the quarantine?
Can you please tell a few words about your hookah lounge? How big it is? How many employees do you have? How many hookahs do you have?
My lounge is one of the most famous in the scene everyone who smokes hookah should have heard of my lounge, our lounge is about 200 m2 with shop, which means we have an integrated shop in our lounge (there is almost nowhere). Shisha we have about 40 MIG Tradi 30 Nps colonial special Edition 30 Whookah in different wood colors and MiG X series and employees we are approx. We are currently complete 10.
Australia – Wal Eade (Partner of Hookah Battle, organizer of Hookah Battle Junior League event in Australia)
BMCP in Sydney Australia has been operating for 6 years. We enjoy 90 seats, 50 Shishas, employ 8 staff and in 6 years never closed our doors once.
USA – Jack Kassamanian (Partner of Hookah Battle, participant of HB, organizer HB Junior League event)
Oasis Lounge is a hookah lounge in Las Vegas for hookah enthusiast’s. The lounge has had events with 180 people but we now limit it to 100. We usually have 3 to 4 people on staff and we have around 75 hookahs.
Ukraine – Mikhail Shevchenko (Member of Hookah Battle, winner of the Hookah Battle World Cup 2020, as well as the legend of the Hookah Battle Hall of Fame)
Bearloga lounge the largest hookahs in the city. The landing inside is 120 people, and 2 large lounges which accommodate another 130 guests …. we have 15 people. The hookah park is 87 units.
My lounge is Le Raven in Paris, we have 40 places and have almost 50 hookahs, working with 4 brands which are Steamulation, Wookah, MIG and NPS.
We are 3 working on the lounge 2 employees and me.
Brazil – Adel (Is a member of the Hookah Battle, founder of the Akbar Lounge in Brazil, Curitiba)
Akbar lounge is the first hookah lounge in Curitiba since 2015. Have 12 employes and have about 65 hookah.
The lounge is not a very large structure, it can be said to be medium. We have tables and chairs inside and outside. I count on the help of three employees. And I have 12 hookahs in the lounge.
Hookabana lounge is about 2000 sqft and we hold about 60 people inside. Our current staff runs about
3 employees at the moment. Our current hookah lineup is about 40 pipes. Ranging from Russian German and American pipes.
Our lounge is medium size ( 200 sq. m. ) in the city center. Im in lounge business for more than 10 years, its our new project with unusual mission: “Diskette Lounge – our mission is to be a bridge between generations”, the venue made in “retrowave” and “webpunk” style. We have 7 employees, and a park of hookahs around 40 pcs.
When did you hear the first time about the virus problem? Did you make any special things in the lounge (like disposable hoses, e.t.c.) to protect guests/employees?
Sezer Bairakchioglu (Germany) – Of course, we followed it from the media and it was not clear that the situation was so serious that nobody expected it and we didn’t get to deal with it, it was all too fast and we weren’t prepared.
Wal Eade (Australia) – COVID-19 received much attention in the first week of March. We already provide disposable hoses and Mouthtips and set in place additional sanitation measures including hand sanitizer offered to guests particularly after cash handling. The Australian Government in the second week of March has directed social distancing 4sq.m per person with a distance of 1.5m between patrons. In the third week of March, the Australian Government has directed all cafes/restaurants to close and only to offer takeaway or pick up.
Jack Kassamanyan (USA) – I first heard about the virus problem while I was traveling to Hookah Club Show. This was the last week of February. At that time I didn’t even pay attention to it. We always have strict rules about washing every pipe after use and soaking the base using oxyclean but instead of taking any chances, we decided to close down 100% until it was safe to return.
Mikhail Shevchenko (Ukraine) – We heard about coronavirus back in February 2020. We purchased a steam cleaner and after each smoking, we steamed hoses, mouthpieces, and shafts. For personnel purchased protective masks, gloves, and antiseptics.
Sevan Bdk (France) – We Heard about the Coronavirus ar the end of the year, that was happening in China we did nothing special about it in the lounge, we use to keep everything clean.
Adele (Brazil) – We hair about virus since the end of February… since this, more space between tables.hoses disposable alcohol gel in every place.
Ronaldo Reis (Brazil) – As soon as I got to know about the virus, I tried to have more information and at the beginning, I already chose to cancel the events and close the establishment. I informed clients that they should use the hookah itself, without sharing it with others for the sake of everyone’s health!
Nader Suliman (USA) – Our fears of the virus cane really sudden. It went from everything is business, as usual, the weekend of March 11th. Then on the 14th of March, the fear set in with using disposable hoses and then realized that our best option for safety would be complete closure the night of the 14th.
Stanislav Medkov (Russia) – The first time we heard about the virus in January 2020 (news from China), but nobody care and nobody didn’t think it will turn into some worldwide crises. It looks like regular virus news like “ebola virus” from Africa, which happens from time to time and nobody give attention to it. The first real action things were on Hookah Club Show: they announced (2 weeks before the expo) – that Chinese companies will not be allowed to participate in the expo. There also been some news like – alcohol kills coronavirus and people joke here “You have no power here, coronavirus”.
- After a month the virus problem came into Russia, from 15th March government obligated all HoReCa segment to make the next things:
– measure the temperature of each guest (high temperature not allowed for a visit)
– make tables distance minimum of 1,5 meters
– buy and provide sanitizers for guests and some other things
- We did not only these things but also some additionals:
– disposable hoses
– each hookah was treated with a steam generator
– hookah master (prepare) smoke bowl on separate hookah before put it on a guest hookah.
- On 25th March the government banned all hookahs in cafes/lounges.
On 26th March the government obligated all cafes/restaurants/lounges to close.
- The community of hookah lounge owners in Russia decided to strictly comply with the law and moreover watch violators. Its important, because any opened (violate law) hookah lounge in this time can attract big attention of the tv media, and a result could be a big problem for all industry (with such news government can close all industry forever)
Do your lounge work now? If not, when you closed it? How do you manage this situation? Do you have a lot of problems because of that?
Sezer Bairakchioglu (Germany) – We would have to close on March 19th, this of course has a very big financial damage for all of us not only for us bar owners but all hairdressers restaurants boutiques and everything else but the most important thing is, of course, the health of all of us that has absolute priority.
Wal Eade (Australia) – Currently, in the fourth week of March, we are closed. The staff has lost their jobs and the future is very uncertain, for our lounge, for our shisha community and for the greater community at large.
Jack Kassamanyan (USA) – We closed the doors March 15 I believe and this may cause future financial problems but right now all I’m concerned about is the safety of our customers and our employees.
Mikhail Shevchenko (Ukraine) – Our hookah has suspended work since the vision of quarantine in Ukraine since March 17. The problem became global, we opened a new room where we made repairs for almost a year we bought furniture, hookahs, tobacco and a lot of things in order to expand our premises, the staff was left without work, everyone was at home, the rent remained the same despite the force major negotiations are underway to reduce the cost of the rent.
Sevan Bdk (France) – In France, the 13th march the government décidés to close all the shops, restaurants, lounges. For now, we are closed, the government unlocked 300 billion euros to get loans for the companies.
Adele (Brazil) – We closed since 13 march and no information for when we will opened, of course, a lot of problems… rent is too high. We must pay salaries normally because our stuff works for a long time and it is professional and it will difficult to find the same again.
Ronaldo Reis (Brazil) – The lounge was not working. I decided to close it when I saw that the virus had already arrived here in Brazil, and when I researched that I should avoid agglomerations, contacts with other people closed immediately. Although it is a bad situation to keep the establishment closed, I am managing the well-being of my employees, customers and the general population in mind. The problem is that I don’t have income, I need to pay employees, rent, etc..
Nader Suliman (USA) – We closed our doors the night of March 14th. As of right now, we have communicated with landlords and they have been very understanding of the situation. As of course anyone who has to close their business will have financial issues but as I always say let go and let God deal with it. It will all work out.
Stanislav Medkov (Russia) – During March we faced guest’s attendance decline for more than 50%. Since 26th March our lounge is temporarily closed. And for sure we have a lot of problems with that, we still have many costs and have no ability to do revenue.
Do you still pay rent for your lounge? Does your landlord make any benefits?
Sezer Bairakchioglu (Germany) – Rent must continue to be paid and the landlord is unfortunately not cooperative.
Wal Eade (Australia) – We are currently in negotiations with our landlord in discussing the best way forward during these uncertain times.
Jack Kassamanyan (USA) – Our landlord has put our rent payments on hold until June 15th. After June 15th we will owe a higher amount every month to make up for the difference. It’s a temporary fix but it’s better than nothing.
Mikhail Shevchenko (Ukraine) – At this stage, we pay the rent in full and the renter does not agree on a rent vacation or a discount for us. But we are looking for ways to resolve this issue.
Sevan Bdk (France) – I still have to pay it but we have many solutions, we can play it later paying little by little every month and landlords have to accept a way to make it easier for us.
Adele (Brazil) – I still pay and we still not have help from the government.
Ronaldo Reis (Brazil) – Yes, I still pay rent. I count on the help of my other salary that I earn through my employment in another area other than the hookah business.
Nader Suliman (USA) – We do not pay rent and as of right now benefits are unclear. Although evictions are not allowed at this time.
Stanislav Medkov (Russia) – Yes, we still pay rent for our lounge. At the moment our landlord agreed to provide a discount of 20%, but we ask for a 70% discount, we still run negotiations about it. Any landlord in this situation has to understand that it will be really difficult for them to find somebody else for this space.
Do you have any support from your government? Which support in your country can have a business and which support can have simple people?
Sezer Bairakchioglu (Germany) – The state has given us support but that’s not even 30% of our monthly costs, so we have to see what the future holds for us.
Wal Eade (Australia) – The Australian government has released a range of stimulus packages to assist small businesses. Whether these benefit us is yet to be seen as it is all very new.
Jack Kassamanyan (USA) – Right now there is no government support. There are talks of some kind of relief plan but I don’t know what it is. It has been said businesses and individuals will get relief checks but I don’t know the exact details.
Mikhail Shevchenko (Ukraine) – Support from the government so far has remained only in words, the introduction of quarantine will reduce the country’s GDP, people do not work and this affects their standard of living people begin to starve, as most of them do not have a financial pillow and most they didn’t save resources for a rainy day there is no resource to buy the most basic means of protection masks, medicines, tests for coronavirus and so on.
Sevan Bdk (France) – The government make loans up to 20% of your annual sales and you can pay it for 5 years. It’s a good help but a lot of lost money. Simple people without working will be paid up to 85% to their normal salary which is not bad, for now, we are waiting to see if all of this will be achieved or not as the month ended now.
Adele (Brazil) – Nothing till now haven’t.
Ronaldo Reis (Brazil) – I currently have no government help. However, the government said it would provide assistance to those who are self-employed.
Nader Suliman (USA) – We have some support for small businesses right now. There are some programs for small business loans. Although money will not be enough for everybody.
Stanislav Medkov (Russia) – Support of government is the main problem now. They don’t give money to people or compensate for salaries. The only thing they did for business is just an ability to pay taxes later (this is the only support we have and nothing else). Many people are angry about it now. As a result – the country will turn into huge economical crises after that.
What happens with your employees? Do you still pay a salary?
Sezer Bairakchioglu (Germany) – Our employees are mostly temporary workers who are paid after hours.
Wal Eade (Australia) – Currently, our employees are taking leave. Some have left the industry and gone to building trade. Others are stacking toilet paper at the supermarket. And others are hoping this shutdown doesn’t last too much longer.
Jack Kassamanyan (USA) – Our employees are getting a reduced amount of pay.
Mikhail Shevchenko (Ukraine) – We paid salaries to employees with a reserve for the future, but that won’t be enough for a long time either. Quarantine in Ukraine is set until April 24, but it’s a possible extension for a longer period. We are calculating all possible ways in order to at least minimally help our staff. For the most part, this was the main job, many rent housing, pay loans. The situation is not very good, as for me. But everyone hopes for a bright positive future.
Sevan Bdk (France) – They are not working but we pay as normal and the government will pay us back (to the companies) their salary.
Adele (Brazil) – We pay a reduced amount.
Ronaldo Reis (Brazil) – My employees are at home and are receiving normal pay.
Nader Suliman (USA) – Unfortunately, right now we can not continue to pay employees.
Stanislav Medkov (Russia) – Our employees are sitting at home now, at the moment we (as the owners) running negotiations with the landlord and calculating some emergency finance for April and March, I think we will support some minimal payment of our employees since the government doesn’t do that.
How long do you think this crisis will continue? For 1,2,3 months or year?
Sezer Bairakchioglu (Germany) – We hope that the whole thing will be over soon, the longer, the worse. It looks like it will be until June 15th.
Wal Eade (Australia) – I believe this crisis will continue for the remainder of 2020 however assessments and reassessment will be ongoing? As soon as the government says we are allowed to open, then we will.
Jack Kassamanyan (USA) – I believe this will be all over by June 1st but it will never go back to 100% normal again. This virus has changed people and the way they interact. It’s further distanced us socially. Technology has been blamed for social distancing but this virus took it to another level. It has shown people here in the US that you don’t need to get out of the house to live. Everything can be done from your phone. Food, shopping, banking. It forced us to use these systems and people will continue to stay at home more I believe.
Mikhail Shevchenko (Ukraine) – We believe that the crisis will not pass without a trace. In China, the situation began to decline 2 months after the start therefore, as for me, the quarantine will last 2 months for us. After it goes into decline. Only then will measures begin to weaken. But this is not the worst. People after quarantine for the next 1.5 months will not go to restaurants, cafes, and hookahs since in the absence of work there will be no funds for rest and relaxation. We positively believe that the news of the crisis with the virus will begin to flow in mid-May month.
Sevan Bdk (France) – I think we will stay like this until June but if they don’t find a solution, any vaccine or medication and nothing happens it could last until September at least.
Adele (Brazil) – I think we will open in may but to be back normal, needs 3 months minimum.
Ronaldo Reis (Brazil) – I believe that this crisis will last for about 5 months. If everyone says their part, stay at home, avoid crowds, it may last less.
Nader Suliman (USA) – I believe the worst of this crisis will last until June and then we start recovering by the end of the year unless we see another wave of cases. To be honest, at this moment I don’t know how long this can really last.
Stanislav Medkov (Russia) – Optimistic way – before the summer. Pessimistic way – before the new year. In my opinion here the main factors:
1. Creation of super quick and super cheap (everyday) mass tests for virus, if everyone, everyday will know who needs to be in quarantine and who can go to work – all business can continue work.
2. Creation of cure (all experts talk that it will be only next year)
3. Lost of people patience because of the economical situation.
4. The success of quarantine measures.
When this problem with the virus will be finished, how much time you think you will need to re-open and recover your business?
Sezer Bairakchioglu (Germany) – That will show whether something will change for us, but we are optimistic that it will be quickly, as I said… our health is above everything.
Wal Eade (Australia) – Once we re-open, winning back customer confidence will be easy however community sentiment will be harder. Social interactions have changed forever.
Jack Kassamanyan (USA) – When we are allowed to reopen I think business will come back slowly but not 100%. There will be a crazy few weeks where everyone is out doing something to break the quarantine and hookah will be a popular way to get out again but quarantine also taught a lot of people to do it themselves at home so we’ll see.
Mikhail Shevchenko (Ukraine) – I think that business will begin to gain momentum closer to mid-summer and the situation will stabilize throughout the CIS. We hope for the best and great health and every opportunity to endure this pandemic.
Sevan Bdk (France) – If the virus disappears and everything is clear, we should go back to normal really fast. To recover all the loss and the loans It should take 1 or 2 years…
Adele (Brazil) – Minimum of 3 months after back to start the movement to a normal life.
Ronaldo Reis (Brazil) – I still don’t know how long we have to stay closed. But I will need to reopen as soon as possible and I believe it will take me around 3, 4 months to recover my business.
Nader Suliman (USA) – We will open immediately as soon as the state of California tells us we can reopen our business. As far as recovering from this crisis it may take 6 months to a year to recover and catch up on past due bills.
Stanislav Medkov (Russia) – To recover work of lounge – it’s just a 1-2 days, the main problem is an economical crisis, people will not turn back to lounges and better prefer to save money. If we will find a way how to decrease all costs (rent, e.t.c.) and find a way how to make prices cheaper, I think we will have some guests and chances to survive.