Hookah culture struggles to find a place in Rapid City - KOTA Territory News

Hookah culture struggles to find a place in Rapid City


Despite stirring new controversy in Rapid City nearly every month, hookah lounges have been around for hundreds of years, all over the world.

Like millions of people from across the world, Airton Edwards enjoys the smokey intoxication of the hookah pipe.

"It's a bit of everything. I like the concept of how it works, the flavors," said Edwards of Rapid City.

The hookah pipe has become increasingly popular in big cities across the country for the past decade.

"Hookah use has been around the world. Originally the Middle East but lately in the United States," said CJ Desmond, co-owner of Ifrit's Hookah Lounge.

Three years ago, Brian Winckel and CJ Desmond decided to take over a struggling hookah business in downtown Rapid City but since then their venture has been met with controversy and highly publicized brushes with the law.

"Earlier this year there was an unfortunate incident. A hired DJ provided alcohol to an underage person," said Winckel. The lounge also had their liquor renewal denied in June. The owners are currently pursing civil action against the city regarding the enforcement of the state wide smoking ban.

One of the biggest concerns of the community is the health effects of hookah.

"People also assume the health risk is higher than that of a cigarette and cigar," said Winckel.

Desmond says their hookah preparation process makes all the difference when it comes to health effects.

A mixture of molasses and tobacco is packed into this bowl and placed on top of the hookah to be burned over a foil screen. But none of the actual tobacco in the mixture is burned in the process.

"And I think that's what often surprises people. How smooth and easy it is to inhale and exhale," said Desmond.

The owners say their loyal customer base won't be swayed by the judgment of others, but they hope more people will open their mind to the ancient pass time.

 was worried from day one when we had a large pipe in the window people are going to assume its no good," said Winckel.

"Hookah is a good thing. It's a new thing, its here to stay," said Edwards.

Owners of Ifrits Hookah lounge say their sales have dropped 25 percent since losing their liquor license in June.

Despite that loss, they say they are still profitable thanks to their new food offerings.

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Rapid City, SD 57701

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