Two Junction City business men are planning to open a hookah lounge in the city’s downtown area.
Troy Livingston — the director of the Junction City/Geary County/Milford Metropolitan Planning Commission — discussed the initiative during Thursday night’s board meeting. He presented a request for a special use permit for a hookah lounge to be located at 111 W. Seventh St.
“It’s a unique situation,” Livingston said. “I’ve never been to a hookah lounge. We’re talking about developing an artsy district in this area; Sixth and Seventh streets. This might fit right in.”
Drew De La Fuente and Chance Neace — from Upscale Social LLC — plan to open the Studio 111 Hookah Lounge at that location at the end of June or early July. The business partners have acquired a tobacco license from the state. De La Fuente spoke to commission board members about the business.
“This is a social hangout with a dress code,” De La Fuente said. “It will have a stage for music and stand-up comedy, and a capacity for 60-70 people. We want it to be a date night place. It will be an upscale place to discuss politics and sports.”
The hookah lounge’s dress code will require customers to wear collared shirts, and no baseball hats will be allowed.
“You can have cowboy hats,” De La Fuente said.
The business will sell flavored shisha tobacco which will be smoked out of water pipes. It will also sell cigars, but will not sell cigarettes or vape products. It will not sell alcohol, but will sell other drinks, including coffee, and fruit cups.
De La Fuente said he wants to offer younger residents a chance to find entertainment locally, rather than having to drive to bigger cities.
“We have a 25-30 percent population of people who are 21-35 we want to keep in house,” De La Fuente said.
Board member John Moyer noted that it is important to give younger residents entertainment options in Junction City.
“If the only people that stay here are our age, this town is going to die,” Moyer said.
The business will also be attractive to Fort Riley soldiers, as they often smoke hookah during service overseas, De La Fuente said.
“They partake in hookah in Korea and Germany,” De La Fuente said.
Customers will have to be 18 or older, and security will be in place at the hookah lounge. It will likely open at 3 p.m. and be closed before midnight.
“It will be open from 3-11 p.m., and everyone will exit the downtown area by midnight,” De La Fuente said.
De La Fuente and Neace also operate Junction City Tattoo, and Studio 13 Hookah Bar in San Antonio, Texas. De La Fuente said they are passionate about improving the Junction City community, and have helped some locals who were headed in the wrong direction.
“We took in two boys who broke into our studio,” De La Fuente said. “Instead of pressing charges, we gave them jobs. We help the community.”
Board members approved the special use permit request. Board Chair Maureen Gustafson discussed the positive impact the business could have.
“We do need the younger generation here,” Gustafson said. “And there is a whole new set of values and what they do. I don’t think it’s a moral issue. I think it’s how (the business) is handled.”