Friday, July 11, 2014

Metairie Gets A Fresh Market And A Cheesecake Factory – What Does Kenner Get? A Hookah Bar

As someone who has started and operated several businesses, some successful – some not so successful, I must confess that I love the American entrepreneurial spirit.

I tell everyone who will listen that we are lucky enough to live in the greatest country in the world because America truly is “The Land of Opportunity”. Nowhere else can you wake up in the morning, regardless of your socioeconomic, family or educational background and start a business.

Now, while America is “The Land of Opportunity”, not all opportunities are equal.

Omaha, with its population of over 400,000 seemed like a place where Hookah would work.  The demographics of Omaha also showed promise, with a younger, more affluent White population and, as the home of 3 Universities, Omaha also was home to trendsetters.

Unfortunately, according to Taffer, Hookah would never succeed in Omaha and he removed the water pipes and replaced The Oasis Hookah Bar with a trendier, Middle Eastern-themed bar called “Taza”.

Shortly after Taffer left, proving that some people just can’t be helped, the owner of Taza flipped it back to a Hookah Bar.

To be honest, I’ve never smoked Hookah and don’t believe that I ever will. While the idea of smoking is not appealing to me, the thought of inhaling something from a communal pipe disgusts me. I’m the kind of person who checks the fountain spigots for mold at a Convenience Store before I pour myself a 52-oz Diet Mt. Dew (thankfully, Mayor Yenni hasn’t followed NY Mayor Bloomberg’s lead and tried to ban those yet).

While Metairie residents rejoice and imbibe at the new Cheescake Factory and anxiously await the arrival of Fresh Market, there’s word that Kenner – that’s right, Kenner – is also getting a new business - its very own Hookah Bar. Tucked away in the old TeCoRo’s/Sakora space on Williams will soon be Hookah.

I don't think that's exactly the kind of Economic Development that Kenner needs - or wants. But, what do I know? I wasn't on Mayor Yenni's handpicked Economic Development Committee. 

During the time that I’ve lived in Kenner, that space has been home to several restaurants, the longest tenured being TeCoRo’s, named after three sisters who operated the Italian Restaurant.

There are places in New Orleans that still supply Hookah but the original, The Hookah, closed its doors last year after a 9 year run.

Despite uneven results in more Metropolitan (and infinitely ‘hipper’) New Orleans, someone believes that Hookah can be successful in Kenner.

The demographics point otherwise.

Hookah is largely consumed by teens and college students – Kenner is not a hotbed of either. Hookah bars are frequented by young, affluent, hipster Whites. Again, Kenner is not the hippest, trendsetting city in New Orleans.

There is a growing Middle Eastern population in Kenner but I’m sure that they are already Hookah-ing at home if they are so inclined. So, while the population is growing, the market isn’t.

As someone who isn’t young, affluent or hip (although I am White), I’m disappointed that this prime real estate on Williams Blvd. will be home to a Hookah Bar, a place where you will never see me. Of course, it could have been the new home of a Cigar Bar, where you would also never see me.

Given that several restaurants have utilized that space, and all died unseemly deaths, I hope this new venture does well. Kenner needs thriving businesses. I’m just not sure that Hookah is it.

Hopefully, we won’t be seeing Jon Taffer and his Bar Rescue crew in Kenner anytime soon. I’m sure he’s not a big fan of Hookah.

The jury is out on whether Kenner agrees.