Posted on 23 June 2014.
Lake Norman residents love hookah…or at least enough love it to fill the area’s first hookah lounge to capacity at its grand opening Saturday night. Liquid Lounge, at Kenton Place in Cornelius, is the first establishment north of Charlotte to offer the Persian waterpipes. It also offers desserts, liquor, and live music that ranges from local bands playing acoustic sets to DJs mixing dance beats. Liquid’s co-owners, sisters Denise Richardson and Adrienne Rae, took a moment between serving drinks and blowtorching coals to talk to CorneliusNews.net about the nuances of the hookah business.
Hookahs vaporize flavored tobacco and pass the vapor over a water basin to cool and filter it. The result is a smooth, exotically flavored smoking experience that is wildly popular in the Levant, Middle East, and has been gaining steadily in popularity in the U.S. and Europe.
The inspiration to create a hookah lounge in Cornelius came to Rae at Crave, a hookah lounge in Charlotte. She comments that she thought, “I wish we had something like this in Lake Norman.”
Adrienne saw that there was demand for a lounge, but it fell to her sister Denise to take the practical steps necessary to make the idea a reality. “We’re like Yin and Yang,” said Denise, “[Adrienne] has the great ideas and I take care of the footwork.”
Liquid co-owner Denise Richardson.
Building Liquid Lounge wasn’t without risk: “We decided as two single parents to combine our resources this February,” Denise said. “I just said, Let’s do it!” The sisters pooled their funds, leased the property at Kenton Place (formerly home to The Dirty Martini), and went to work converting it into a hookah lounge. Within 90 days, Liquid was opened for business.
Neither sister had any prior experience in the hookah lounge business. Adrienne had worked in property preservation since the age of 16, and the shift from managing real estate to managing fruit-flavored tobacco has required not just new work clothes (a pink cowboy hat and glow-stick necklace), but also new business skills.
“We’ve run businesses before, so you don’t expect that there’s a lot you have to relearn,” said Denise, “but when you switch to a business like this it’s difficult to grasp everything.”
Saturday’s grand opening had a crowd at the bar inside and outside.
“Everything” includes the science of mixing hookah flavors and the art of catering to the wide variety of patrons who come to Liquid.
“You get your day crowd,” said Denise, “working individuals who just want to kick back at the end of the day for a drink after work to wind down. Then you get the whole late night crowd.”
If weaving through a crowd of late-night partiers with a tray of drinks is difficult, doing it with a delicately balanced water pipe is even more so. But Liquid Lounge’s newly hired staff worked like seasoned professionals Saturday night.
The sisters agree that without help, Cornelius’ first hookah lounge would still be a pipe dream. “We have such great support in the community with local businesses and distributors,” said Denise. “And I couldn’t ask for a better business partner.”
The Liquid Lounge is located at 17036 Kenton Dr., Suite 104, Cornelius, NC 28031. www.liquidloungelkn.com.