Light up, smoke out

Abby Arika

PHOTO by anne stokes

For more information on Liaison Lounge and Restaurant, visit

Abby Arika and her friends wanted a cool cocktail hangout that was closer to their Arden Arcade neighborhood than the Midtown scene. So, about a year ago, Arika, a businesswoman who formerly owned a moving company, created the nightspot she and her pals always wanted. “I thought it would be fun to open a bar and drink all day,” she jokes. Liaison Lounge and Restaurant (2667 Alta Arden Expressway), which shares a strip mall with a Christian bookstore, offers the requisite full bar and daily lunch specials, but also mixes in open-mic comedy nights, the occasional deejay and various community gatherings. And starting last month, the lounge turns its outdoor patio into a nighttime hookah den Wednesday through Saturday at 7 p.m.

Arika's friends have returned the favor by holding their own events at the establishment. Her BFF even designed the sleek décor, mixing dark and light, with splashes of color coming from the shimmering gold lamps hanging overhead. Arika is hoping word of the lounge will spread and that she'll soon be catering to even more new friends. Arika put down the pipe long enough to clear the air about hookah tobacco flavors, cayenne pepper and why you should smoke 'em even if you don't got 'em.

You offer hookah smoking four nights a week. What brought this about?

Well, I wanted to have a bar that had a variety of entertainment. So, including our open-mic nights, we decided to have hookah. There isn't another bar in the area where you can get drunk, smoke some hookah and listen to live entertainment.

How does it work?

It is $5 a session, which [lasts] until you run out of coal. [That typically] lasts about an hour or so. Usually for people that have never tried hookah, we'll give them a free session.

Are you an avid hookah smoker?

I do it once in a while, since I am operator, cook, bartender and everything else. I don't have much time to play, but I brought it to my lounge so others can have something fun to do at night. I love the crowd.

Weirdest thing you’ve ever smoked?

(Laughs.) Cayenne pepper. I was young and silly.

How did that even happen? Did you think it was something else? Explain!

I rolled it up just like a joint. Just dusted the paper with the pepper and rolled it. It was a stupid idea, but that was the trend that was going on between my circle of friends. It does not give you a high (laughs).

What happened after you smoked it?

It burned my throat so bad. I do not recommend it.

The first and only time I smoked hookah, both my cousin and I got headaches. Did we do it wrong?

(Laughs.) Trust me, to this day, I still do it wrong.

What hookah tobacco flavors do you offer?

We have different flavors, from papaya-mango, bubble gum to strawberry-citrus mint. The most popular is the After Sex. It could be due to the name.

What does the After Sex flavor taste like? I’m actually a little worried how you’ll answer.

After Sex is a sweet, fruity and light flavor. People say it is similar to Fruity Pebbles.

If you were a tobacco flavor, which one would you be? I would be carrot.

I would be Shady Lady or Porn Star (laughs).

Is “hookah” a funny word? It sounds like a funny word.

It almost sounds like “hooker,” doesn't it?

There’s an old photograph of my parents from the ’70s, sitting around a large hookah with goofy grins plastered on their faces. I suspect they were smoking something other than tobacco.

In the '70s, with free love, they were most likely smoking wacky tobacky.

For April Fools’ Day, you advertised on your Facebook page a “first-ever” male burlesque show next to a photo of a bunch of shaved beefcakes in cowboy hats. What kind of reaction did that get?

We had a great response, however, since it was an April Fools' prank, we had many disappointed ladies.

Did anyone actually show up? How disappointed were they?

Some women did show up. So, to show some sympathy, I made one of my employees strip a little for them. He's an elderly gentleman—I'm just kidding.