Up in smoke

Bryan McArdle

Photo By David Robert

It’s hard to guess where our new, more sophisticated downtown cultural area will take us. First, honest-to-gosh class watering holes, boutiques and tea houses. Well, Reno’s first hookah lounge, Hookava, has started doing business down there at 395 W. First St. It’s co-owned by Bryan McArdle. What could be next? An oxygen bar?

Where’d the name, Hookava, come from? Is it tobacco and coffee?

No. It’s just a name we came up with. We were going to serve this drink called kava, it’s a root tea. It’s from Polynesia, and we were going to serve that and hookah, and we realized that we would rather serve beer and wine. We started leaning toward going toward the lounge style, but we kept the name. You take hookah, and you take kava, and you put them together, and you’ve got hookava.

So I blew it with my guess of coffee.

We were originally going to open in the Mizpah Hotel, and we were about two months from opening when it burned down.


That was going to be kind of a coffee shop feel to it, but now that we have a new location, we’re kind of doing a lounge/bar kind of feel.

But you’re off the road, right?

We’re on the bottom floor of the Reno Riviera Motel. There’s like a lounge area that’s kind of in its lobby, and we’re kind of off the beaten path. Our front entrance is actually in the alleyway between the Reno Riviera and the church on Arlington.

That’s what I was thinking.

We’re squeezed right in there. If you look right through the church parking lot, you can see us. If you are standing at Se7en Teahouse, if you look right through there, you can see our neon signs.

What inspired you to open a hookah lounge?

My younger brother, Shawn, who’s also an owner with me, he has been wanting to open up a club or do something for years. We were talking about it one night, and someone mentioned that Reno didn’t have a hookah lounge. We were both, “You’re right. Reno does need a hookah lounge.”

Do you do strictly flavored tobaccos or other things? I don’t know much about hookah-ing.

You take tobacco and a mix of honey and molasses and preservatives, and they call it “shisha,” that’s what they call the tobacco. We have 32 flavors. We’re like Baskin-Robbins. We have flavors like pumpkin pie, peach, mocha, mint, piña colada, strawberry, watermelon. Anything you can think of. You can create other flavors, like a banana pie or a creamcicle.

You’re kidding. And the smoke tastes like that?

No kidding. It really does taste like what it is. We kind of prepare the hookah for you and bring it out to your table. It usually lasts around 45 minutes. It can be split with as many friends as you want. We do serve hummus and pita bread or chips and salsa, and we do have a selection of wine and beer.

And what are your hours?

Our hours are about 7 p.m.-midnight. And on weekends, we stay open until about 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Right now, we’re closed on Sunday.

What kind of people do you get?

It’s mostly a college crowd. We have regulars. We have people who come in almost every night. It’s crazy.

What else should we talk about with regard to hookahs?

Our Web site will soon be up, hookava.com. We also have a Myspace page.