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Hookah Lounge offers campus-banned pipes

Oct. 26, 2005

by JON SCHROEDER, reporter

It's illegal on campus, but now students can smoke hookah at the Hookah Lounge at Fifth and Bagby Streets.

Robyn Kenagy | Lariat staff
The Hookah Lounge, owned by Francisco Navajas, a junior from Parijas, Bolivia, and Houston junior Christopher Clifton, opened Sept. 29.

"It's a hang-out place," said owner Francisco Navajas, a Parijas, Bolivia junior. "We want to promote studying."

Hookah smoking, which started in the Middle East, involves burning sheesha, a flavored tobacco that's often mixed with molasses and dried fruit, in a water pipe and inhaling the flavored smoke through a long hose, according to the American Cancer Society Web site.

Navajas and his brother, Houston junior Christopher Clifton, opened the Hookah Lounge on Sept. 29.

The Hookah Lounge is within walking distance of campus, but smoking hookah on campus is prohibited.

"This fall semester, 'hookahs' were added to the list of prohibited items on campus," said Bethany McCraw, associate dean for judicial and legal student services.

According to Section I of the Baylor Student Handbook, examples of misconduct include "unlawful manufacture, possession, use, sale, transfer or purchase of a controlled substance or another dangerous drug such as a controlled substance analogue (designer drug) or drug paraphernalia. Any type of hookah is prohibited on the campus."

But Jim Doak, chief of the Baylor Department of Public Safety, said Baylor Police don't have rules against hookahs. He said if they found a student in possession of a hookah, Baylor Police would refer the case to the Judicial Affairs staff.

"It's what you're smoking that becomes the question," Doak said.

Sanctions for hookah possession are up to Judicial Affairs.

"The entire range of sanctions are available in all cases of policy infractions," Judicial Affairs Coordinator David Murdock said.

He said a freshman displaying a hookah in a residence hall openly is a different scenario from a student hiding a hookah with prior drug violations. The history and demeanor of a student are both taken into account in assessing a penalty, Murdock said.

"Two main goals of the Judicial Affairs process are education and accountability. The process is intended to increase student success," he said.

Murdock said it's OK to smoke hookah off campus, however.

"You could have a hookah off campus and smoke tobacco in it. This is not illegal as long as you are over the age of 18."

Only sheesha is allowed at the Hookah Lounge. Cigarettes and cigars spoil the smell, Navajas said.

At the Hookah Lounge, the first bowl of sheesha costs $10.99. Refills cost $5.99.

According to the ACS Web site, hookah smoking has recently become more popular among young people, especially around college campuses, but it adds that all forms of tobacco are dangerous.

Smoking hookah for 24 hours is the equivalent of smoking one cigarette, Navajas said, which would be 15 to 20 hookah.

The Hookah Lounge should be relaxing, Navajas said. He plays a variety of international music in the front room and soft rock in the back.

Navajas said he got the idea for the Hookah Lounge from a trip to Austin. He visited a hookah bar there and liked the atmosphere. He said the Austin hookah bar made him feel relaxed in a way he hadn't since coming to America from Bolivia in 2003.

"Life in America is like a machine," Navajas said.

One of the reasons he opened the Hookah Lounge was to help other students relax. He said even though it's work running the business, being there still helps him unwind.

Since Navajas is also a student, he often does homework at the Hookah Lounge. He said students should feel free to come in even if they don't smoke hookah.

"We're not going to kick them out," Navajas said about customers who come in but aren't smoking. "It's a good place to stay late."

Navajas said he wants to provide an alternative to students going out and drinking late at night, and that it should be different from Common Grounds.

Navajas is looking toward the future of the Hookah Lounge. He plans to start a weekly open microphone night later in the semester and add a DJ to his staff. But for now, he just wants students to "come relax."