Hookah bars are popular hang-out spots for young people in college. The bars usually have all the elements of a typical club, and they draw smokers and non-smokers together in a social setting. Some hookah bars also serve alcohol and food, and others have live music and DJs. To start a hookah bar in New York City you will need to get a waiver of the NYC clean indoor air act. Like any other business, you will also need a business license, business registration, a marketing plan and good location.
Create a business plan. Write down the general idea of your hookah bar including the location in NYC, the target market, the financial costs to start and an analysis of the competition. Most hookah bars in NYC are clustered in Manhattan. This is both good and bad for your business. It means there's enough demand to keep them all running but also steep competition. Detail a plan to differentiate yourself from these other bars in your business plan.
Find funding. Your initial start-up costs will be very high around furniture and equipment. Rent costs in NYC are also very high, especially around Manhattan. Expect to find financing to cover at least one year of operational expenses. This will give you enough time to build your business without having to cut costs to stay afloat. Use your business plan to pitch the idea to investors and banks. Contact the NYC branch of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) at 212- 264-4354. It will help you polish your business plan and get you ready to seek funding.
Rent or lease a location. If you are confident about the quality of your shisha or supreme atmosphere in your bar, you should consider competing directly with other established hookah bars in the Manhattan area. Your location needs to be large enough to handle ventilation of the smoke, and it should have easy access to pedestrians. It is common for hookah bars to have several rooms where customers can gather privately, and common areas similar to a restaurant with tables and chairs. If you are not looking to compete directly with other established hookah bars, look for areas in NYC with higher youth populations and low rent costs. Go to Google maps and search for hookah bars in NYC. You should be able to visually determine the areas where there aren't too many bars already. Research these areas for suitable locations for your hookah bar.
Register your business. File articles of incorporation with the New York State Division of Corporations. Consult with a lawyer or representative from the SBA about the best type of business structure for your hookah bar. You can register your business online through the link in the resources section of this article. You will also need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS website at IRS.gov.
Get business permits. Get a resellers' permit from the New York State's Online Permit Assistance and Licensing website at nys-permits.org. If you will be selling food and alcoholic drinks at your hookah bar, you will also need liquor licenses and food permits. The NYC Clean Indoor Air Act prohibits smoking inside buildings. However, you can file for a waiver with the form in the resources section of this article. The City of New York grants the waiver based on whether compliance causes undue financial hardship for the business or whether compliance would be unreasonable for the type of business or establishment. A hookah bar would fall in to the latter category.
Furnish your hookah bar and buy equipment. Buy plenty of comfortable couches and decor, since hookah bars generally compete based on atmosphere and look. Carpets and large cushions are also very common. You will also need hookahs and shashi to offer your customers. Start with a few popular flavors and continue adding more as demand increases.
Market your hookah bar in NYC. Since competition is fierce in NYC, you will need to devote a lot of time and energy into marketing and promotional efforts even before you open your doors to the public. Start an email list announcing special offers only available to the first customers through the door. This will help you get the word out about your new hookah bar before you open. Offer plenty of promotional discounts at the very beginning to get people to try out your place over the competition. Also try to target New York tourists by building relationships with hotels in the area. Place ads in local papers and distribute fliers in crowded areas like Times Square. Create a simple website describing your hookah bar through high-quality images, a map with your location and contact information.
- hookah image by zusyl from Fotolia.com