The art of the smoke

Art Dogs & Grace

Blowing smoke: Jessica Novelly of Art Dogs & Grace sucks up a hit of tasty tobacky while (from left) DJ Fat Sam and DJ Rob M settle for a secondhand puff.

Blowing smoke: Jessica Novelly of Art Dogs & Grace sucks up a hit of tasty tobacky while (from left) DJ Fat Sam and DJ Rob M settle for a secondhand puff.

Photo By David Robert

Art Dogs & Grace is located at 218 Vassar St. Hookah smoking runs from 7:30 p.m. to midnight, seven days a week. For more info, call 324-2787.

Art Dogs & Grace

218 Vassar St.
Reno, NV 89502

(775) 324-2787

Ever more stringent anti-smoking laws passed in recent years have chivvied smokers out of restaurants, bars and even a few casinos and have left some people looking for a more socially acceptable and communal alternative to cigarettes. Many have taken refuge in the hookah, the ancient tradition of smoking from a shared pipe that’s been popular in the Middle East for centuries. Patrons pay a fee to smoke shisha, or flavored tobacco, from an octopus-like contraption fitted with pipes at the end of each “tentacle.” Lately, hookahs have begun to surface in nightclubs and coffeehouses throughout the city.

A late-night hookah lounge is the newest addition to one of the head shops in town, Art Dogs & Grace. Art Dogs has been in business locally for more than 17 years and has held its current location at 218 Vassar St. for the past eight. The opening of the hookah lounge in August 2007 was heralded by a live band and fire jugglers from Controlled Burn.

The lounge typically operates from 7:30 p.m. to midnight and has quickly become a haven for the younger, under-21 crowd. Alcohol is not sold on the premises, which allows anyone to attend if they are 18 or older and have proper ID.

Free entertainment is offered on Thursday through Saturday nights by local DJs and musicians. Manager David Hirshman has enthusiastically embraced the arts community, from the graffiti that covers the walls inside the lounge to Eric Burke’s surrealistic woodland mural that can be found at the entrance. Inside the lounge is a cityscape with a large caricature of a man on one wall and a hookah on the opposite.

There are several tables and chairs around the room for the customers, though there is a more discrete VIP section toward the back for couples who would prefer a little privacy. Hirshman has plans to remodel soon and install restaurant-style booths when the time is right.

The lighting is good, though the disco ball which spins from the center of the ceiling could be annoying for the studying student, and on a quiet night, many types of music are played over the sound system, while the sweet smell of tobacco hazes the air.

Though the lounge is one of the only coffee houses in the city that allows smoking indoors, they only allow the smoking of the hookah. Cigarettes are prohibited.

Hirshman realizes that he is only trading vices, but “smoking the hookah isn’t as immediate as smoking a cigarette, so I smoke less.”

It should be noted, though, that the Mayo Clinic’s Edward Rosenow says hookah tobacco is no less toxic than cigarette tobacco.

Friends Paul, Todd and JR all agreed that the hookah is “A great way to take your mind off things.” They said that the hookah is a good way to chill and that the atmosphere and nice people have kept them coming back.

The menu of the lounge is limited to what Hirshman claims to be his selected favorites, but the store offers five different brands of tobacco and a total of 108 different flavors.

The most impressive work on display is the blown glass, which is bought from all over the United States. There is a wide array of work, from a minutely detailed and tiny spider created by Ryan Adams of Tahoe, to an intricately chambered pipe created by an artist from Oregon.