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VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. — Shortly after a decision to push up closing times for clubs and bars from 3 a.m. to 2 a.m., Daytona Beach City commissioners are now weighing the option of whether hookah lounges should follow those same rules.
The council discussion was introduced earlier this year but re-emerged following a deadly shooting outside of a local hookah bar in November.
While a time change looms, some hookah lounge owners in the city say the move could be detrimental to their business.
“We’ve spent $180,000 on this business,” explained Sunil Kumar, the co-owner of Follow the Smoke Hookah Lounge.
Kumar has spent years searching for the right location to open the lounge he runs. Born and raised in India, the entrepreneur has traveled the globe. He’s been to nearly 20 different countries before finally calling Daytona Beach his home.
“That’s tobacco flavored with the fruits,” Kumar said while assembling a water pipe.
Follow the Smoke Hookah Lounge on North Grandview Avenue is a product of the culture he and his co-owner wanted to bring to the area. In February of this year, they got closer to making that a reality by purchasing their current building. Several weeks slowly passed while waiting for permits, but their doors officially opened to the public five months ago.
“We’re not from here. Everybody comes here because this is the land of dreams. So we all come here to fulfill our dreams in a good way,” shared Kumar.
While business has been great so far, a bit of adversity now worries him and longtime business partner Richu Jacob. City commissioners in Daytona Beach are currently discussing an ordinance that would close businesses like Follow the Smoke at 2 a.m. It’s something the council has brought up before, but the topic has resurfaced after a 21-year-old man was shot and killed outside a different hookah business in the city.
“Someone’s mistake or some other place that has some violence has nothing to do with us,” said Jacob. “We came from nothing, and we put all our money into this place to give something to the community that we are hearing,” he continued.
The co-owners say their business will be devastated if their current hours are forced to change. Most of their clientele flows in once the nearby clubs are let out.
“The main thing is that we only get business from 2-4,” Kumar explained.
Currently, follow the smoke stays open until 5 a.m. on the weekends. A final decision hasn’t been made on whether those hours will change, but city commissioners have agreed the topic will have two readings before a vote take place on the next steps.
As for Sunil, he and Jacob plan on participating during the public comment section of meetings to voice their concerns on what a time change will mean for business.
Beer Bong “I just want the city to look at things in a different way. Don’t look at all the businesses in the same way because it’s not run by the same owner,” said Kumar.