“There’s nothing else like this downtown, and we hope to attract a nice mix of people who might be looking to try something new,” Murshed said. “This is going to be a relaxing atmosphere where people can enjoy a hookah after work or just hang out and watch the game. And I think people are going to be curious to see the new set-up.”
Murshed said that when visitors arrive at Blue Night, they’ll be able to choose from an assortment of traditional hookah water pipes and flavored hookah tobacco. Murshed said Blue Night will feature three of the top-selling brands — Starbuzz (with 12 flavors to choose from), Fumari (three flavors) and Al Fakher (12 flavors).
“You can mix and match flavors, combining two if you want to try something new and exotic,” Murshed said. “One of the best ones I’ve found is Starbuzz’s gummi bear flavor. It really tastes like you’re eating a bag of gummi bears.”
Hookah smokers will be given disposable hose tips to suck from. Because the smoke is filtered through water and sucked through a long hose, hookah users don’t typically inhale much — hookah smoking is done mostly for flavor. Despite being facilities where tobacco is smoked, hookah lounges skirt the state smoke-free law because they count as specialty retail stores. What smoke is inhaled is usually said to create a mild buzz that induces a peaceful feeling.
“I’m from Metro Detroit, and hookah lounges are very popular down there,” Murshed said. “I don’t see any reason why they can’t take off in Lansing, too. There’s definitely a market for good hookah, and we’re only going to carry the best products.”
Blue Night will take over the spot most recently home to Secrets Nightclub, a dance club and concert venue that closed last year. Before that it was X-Cel, a gay club that the building’s owner, Tom Donnell, opened in 2003. Donnell will lease the building to Murshed and his brother and business partner, Nas Murshed. The brothers spent several months renovating the interior to create a more “homelike” feeling.
“When I first walked in, all I could say is ‘Wow,’” Murshed said. “It has these huge ceilings and that incredible threetier stage, but it didn’t feel like a hookah lounge. It felt like a nightclub, so we went to work.”
Murshed and his brother retiled the restrooms to give them a retro vibe and transformed the bar area into a nonalcohol refreshment commissary. The business will have no liquor license, but will sell canned sodas, juices and coffee drinks. The Mursheds also installed new plush, 10-person sofas and new tables, added “artistic” LED lighting throughout the building and split off areas into new private rooms.
“The space is really big, so we wanted to make it feel a little more intimate,” Murshed said. “We don’t want a big, noisy place where you have to shout to be heard. We really want to bring people back downtown again.” Following a boom in the late 2000s and early ‘10s, Washington Square has undergone an entertainment recession in recent years. The closing of former 200 block watering holes Black Rose and House of Eden Rock last year marked the end of an era. Eclectic restaurants have fared no better, as two 2015 newcomers — Henry’s on the Square and the Crafty Palate — failed to connect with diners and closed last year.
But there are still glimmers of (night) life on Washington Square: Midtown Brewing Co. is holding steady down on the 400 block, Kelly’s Downtown continues to draw regulars and Frenchthemed restaurant EnVie is slated to open by spring. Blue Night Hookah Lounge may be in the right place at the right time to bear witness to a downtown re-renaissance.
“I’ve always loved hookah lounges, because they create an environment of relaxation,” Murshed said. “You never see people arguing or getting into fights at hookah lounges. You look around, and you just see people with their friends having conversations and smiling. That’s why I chose this to be my first business. I wanted to make a place where people would feel at ease.” Blue Night Hookah Lounge is not related to Blue Midnight Hookah Lounge, the similarly named East Lansing establishment that closed last year. Murshed said he picked the name because of the use of blue LEDs in the business’ interior lighting design. Currently there are two other hookah lounges in the area: Six Lounge, 400 Albert Ave. in downtown East Lansing, and Mikho’s Hookah Lounge & Middle Eastern Cuisine, 3824 S. Cedar St. in south Lansing.
“I learned in business school that if you want to make something out of yourself, you have to give yourself a shot,” Murshed said. “This is my shot. I took some time off from (my day job) to focus on this, and if this works, I can say goodbye to working for other people. I consider (opening Blue Night) a first step.”
Nick Eyde, principal at the Eyde Co., confirmed that a deal with Jim Flora to bring a version of his popular Kalamazoo Beer Exchange to downtown Lansing is dead. Flora planned to take over the second floor and rooftop of the Hurd Building, located at the intersection of Washington Square and Washtenaw Street, across the street from the Knapp Centre. The contract, signed in November, had a 60-day contingency plan; those contingincies weren't met, effectively killing the deal. Flora could not be reached for comment. Eyde is hoping to find another restaurant or bar concept to move into the space.
Blue Night Hookah Lounge (opening Wednesday, Feb. 22)
224 S. Washington Square, Lansing
2 p.m.-1 a.m. Sunday-Thursday; 2 p.m.- 2 a.m. Friday-Saturday
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