by Ian McNulty
Mardi Gras day will be the end of the line for Hookah Café. The Frenchmen Street restaurant and nightclub plans to close next week after five years in business. Management blamed "recently passed anti-smoking laws."
A state law that has been in force for about 14 months prohibits smoking in most workplaces, including restaurants. Exceptions to the law were carved out for casinos and bars, giving new importance to the distinction between bars that serve food and restaurants that have bars. Hookah Café seemed to occupy a hazy area between the two.
As the name implies, hookahs, the aromatic Middle Eastern water pipes, were a centerpiece of the operation, which also developed an ambitious contemporary menu, hosted DJs and dance parties and presented live music on the weekends. After 9 p.m. only people age 21 or older were allowed inside.
A renovation completed last year around this time was aimed at making the place more of a dining destination, with low-slung lounge chairs and coffee tables replaced by more conventional dining room accommodations.
Hookah Café is in a unique location fronting two sides of a bend in Frenchmen Street near Esplanade Avenue. It had previously been a highly hyped but short-lived restaurant called Belle Fourche.
There will be a final "blow out" party on Feb. 24, Mardi Gras day, with DJ Beverly Skillz.