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Posted on Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

New Hail Hookah Lounge coming to long-vacant Firefly Club space on Main Street

By Ben Freed


The interior of 637 South Main Street is being renovated to become Hail Hookah Lounge on Friday, March 15. The building was formally used as the Firefly Club.

Daniel Brenner |

John Saroki and his friends Bernard Arabo and Marius Essak enjoy hanging out at hookah lounges in the Detroit area, but they have trouble finding a suitable place to smoke the elaborate Middle Eastern water pipes when they come to Ann Arbor for Michigan football games.

The trio decided to tackle the issue head on by opening Hail Hookah Lounge in the space vacated by the Firefly Club in 2009.

“There’s quite a few hookah places out in our area, in West Bloomfield, and when we want to hang out they’re a great place to go,” he said.

“We know there’s one smaller one here in Ann Arbor but we wanted to have one with nice couches, big TVs, and that cozy feel that just makes it a nice place to go.”


Co-owner John Saroki said the new lounge will have a maize and blue "Michigan" theme.

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The space is currently undergoing extensive renovations in preparation for opening in four to five weeks. Saroki said contractors are currently ripping up floors, taking down walls and installing a bathroom ahead of the scheduled opening.

“We like the exposed red brick and the old wood that was already there, it gives you that cozy Ann Arbor feel,” he said. “But we’re adding new floors, fixtures, lights, and everything else.”

The new lounge will be open until 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and will aim to appeal to the post-bar crowd on Friday and Saturday nights, staying open until 4 a.m. During the week, Saroki hopes students will use the location as a study spot, and promised to be outfitted with “the fastest Wi-Fi Comcast has to offer.”

Hookah bars are common in the Detroit suburbs, but Ann Arbor has only the Smoka Hookah Lounge located above Rendez-Vous Cafe on South University, and the Smoke Station on Packard Road, which opened last year.

The pricing at the new Hail Hookah Lounge will be the same as Smokah Hookah: $15 for a standard hookah “head,” and $20 for more premium tobacco flavors. Hookahs are often split between up to four people, Saroki said.

The pipes, common in Middle Eastern countries, filter smoke from a lit piece of charcoal through flavored tobacco and water into a hose that the smoker uses to inhale. Saroki said his hookahs are produced in the U.S. and are less elaborate than Middle Eastern-made models.

“We want the simple ones because they hit the best when you smoke them,” he said. “But we’ll be bringing in some fancy glass ones too for decoration.”

Under Michigan’s Smoke-Free Air Law, smoking is not allowed in food service establishments. Saroki said that Hail will not serve food but that customers are welcome to bring their own food into the lounge.

“We know the owners of Happy’s Pizza across the street also, so people will be able to order snacks and they can be delivered extremely quickly,” he said.

None of the new owners have previous experience running a hookah lounge, but Saroki already owns one Ann Arbor business, the Wireless Toyz at the corner of 4th Avenue and Washington Street.

Ben Freed covers business for You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Reach out to Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2



Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 1:34 a.m.

I HATE these businesses. My 19 year old is now hooked on smoking because of this "social" endeavor. Also am very worried about second hand smoke and the proximity of children.


Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 4:36 p.m.

A 2005 WHO report[3] states that smoking using a waterpipe poses a serious potential health hazard and is not a safe alternative to cigarette smoking. The average hookah session typically lasts more than 40 minutes, and consists of 50 to 200 inhalations that each range from 0.15 to 0.50 liters of smoke.[46][47] In an hour-long smoking session of hookah, users consume about 100 to 200 times the volume of smoke of a cigarette.

Sandra Samons

Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 3:41 p.m.

I know we need more small businesses but I can't develop any enthusiasm for anything that promotes smoking in any form. Why are human beings so bent on harming themselves?!


Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 7:47 p.m.

Hookah is a cultural tradition.


Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 3:38 p.m.

Have you asked the adjacent Ann Arbor Academy for an opinion? Seems like this establishment would create traffic and parking problems for parents and students.


Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 2:28 p.m.

I wonder if M's attorneys are looking into any copy right infringement.


Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 12:23 p.m.

This is just what I was hoping would come to Main St.

Tom Joad

Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 11:36 a.m.

If they have an arrangement with Happy's Pizza to facilitate the delivery of pizza then this business is serving food.


Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 11:19 a.m.

Isn't there another Hookah lounge opening on Fourth?

Ypsi Russell

Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 4:35 p.m.

That has been a troubled address for years now, with Eastern Accents as its latest casualty :( I do hope that Shaffran and Co. are able to rescue it...


Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 3:31 p.m.

Ah. That explains a lot. Thanks Lizzy!

Lizzy Alfs

Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 1:21 p.m.

That hookah lounge is no longer opening due to issues with the landlord and a building foreclosure. I'm working on a story.


Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 11:15 a.m.

Seems like an odd location for this type of business but good luck I guess.


Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 10:45 a.m.

I have to wonder how this new "smokey" Business will work out with the current basement tenant (Ann Arbor School of Performing Arts ) which shares the exact same address (and physical entrance) . Many children attend music classes in the basement at this address. Do the owners plan to isolate the two functions from each other and install "air scrubbers" so kids are not exposed to second-hand hookah smoke?


Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 3:52 p.m.

Ann Arbor School for the Performing Arts does not share an entrance with the Hookah Lounge - the Lounge is accessed from an entrance on Mosley (as was the Firefly). However, in addition to AA-SPA, the building also houses the Ann Arbor Academy - more children. Hopefully the owners have taken this into account as lacerdm suggests.