From Hops to Hookah – University Park going up in a puff of smoke

We recently reported about the closing of Fermaentra, a craft brewery located at 1715 East Evans Avenue – just west of the DU campus. At the time, it was thought that another microbrewery would occupy the space and replace the University of Denver’s only walkable microbrewery.

The cost of rent was cited by Westword as the cause for the closing of Fermaentra and a new brewpub was expected to come in its place. To our surprise, several days ago the building was transformed into the Art Hookah Lounge. Still, it is hard for many to believe that the new Art Hookah Lounge will generate much more traffic and business than its predecessor – but we could be wrong.

Art Hookah Lounge serves customers 18 and over – so no liquor license required. Instead of Fermeantra’s food trucks, IPA’s and pale ale’s, Art Hookah Lounge provides an art-house atmosphere with hookahs (flavored $17-$19 tobacco bowls, used by one or shared by two customers), smoothies and juices (non-alcoholic),  coffees, teas, sandwiches, paninis and desserts to include crepes and Baklava. The operators are still waiting for health department approval before serving food.  Patrons sit on couches and fluffy, leather-bound chairs. And, the place offers a background of art and music.

hookah menu

The ambiance feels like a cross between a SoHo coffee shop and a Middle Eastern cafe. Not exactly a place we would go to get fired up before and after athletic events at DU.  Art Hookah Lounge hours are from 4:00 pm – 2:00 am daily. They may test extending those hours on weekends.

Photo of Art Hookah Lounge - Denver, CO, United States
Photo credit: Yelp

Smoking marijuana is not allowed at the lounge as the City of Denver does not license cannabis consumption at public businesses (yet). However, the city of Denver has published health warnings about smoking hookah. Because of the way a hookah is used, with charcoal used to heat the tobacco, smokers may absorb more toxic substances, (nicotine and carbon monoxide, among others) than cigarette smokers do. An hour-long hookah smoking session (a bowl lasts 1.5-2 hours) involves 200 puffs while smoking an average cigarette involves 20 puffs. People smoking hookah can inhale 150 – 180 times more smoke than from a cigarette. And from the moment you walk in the door, the remnants of exhaled smoke fills the air.

Ironically, house rules prohibit vaping and smoking of cigarettes and cigars on premises. And patrons are encouraged to speak softly to ensure ‘good karma’.

But the owners are likely banking on this location becoming a social gathering place for students and patrons between the ages of 18-21 who are not allowed in local bars. Ironically, age-driven drinking laws may have led to the actual failure of Fermaentra and the rise of Art Hookah Lounge in University Park. Students get a discount with their student ID. Further, according to numerous reports, Denver area hookah establishments have drawn crowds after local bars close.

Unfortunately, University Park is now one of the few neighborhoods in the area (and possibly the entire Denver metro area) without a walkable microbrewery. Platt Park Brewing Company on South Pearl Street, Declaration Brewing Company (2030 South Cherokee Street) and Grandma’s House (1710 South Broadway) are all at least within a 5-minute drive of campus. And of course, there are the old stand-bys Crimson and Gold, The Stadium Inn and The Pioneer for a traditional pre and postgame tavern experience.

The Art Hookah Lounge may not be your pregame cup of Masala Chai Tea, but the owners believe they have identified a local clientele that will successfully support their new enterprise – and time will tell.

(Editors Note: This is the first time LetsGoDU has mentioned ‘hookah’, ‘Grandma’s house’ and ‘Masala Chai Tea’ in the same article.)