Dec 112005
Authors: Hallie Woods

If you came into the small, muted lounge looking for craziness, don't let the door hit you on the way out.

"It's the flavor and the atmosphere that relax me," Fort Collins resident John Gray said while aromatic bursts of smoke wafted from his mouth.

This tobacco doesn't provide the same nicotine "buzz" or atmosphere that cigarettes do.

"We don't want liquor. We don't want the craziness," said Charles Klamm, co-owner of Algiers, a cozy hookah lounge nestled beneath the popular Alley Cat coffee shop. "We want a nice, relaxing place."

Since Fort Collins officials have said "hookah bars" are illegal within city limits, the owners of Algiers refrain from using the forbidden phrase. Instead, Algiers is a retail tobacco outlet providing sampling of the flavored blend – shisha – through hookah pipes.

Shisha, the most common form of tobacco smoked in the hookah pipe, is a mixture of tobacco, dried fruits and sugar. Algiers, the newest shisha provider to Fort Collins, sells more than 10 different flavors of the tobacco ranging from rosemary to strawberry.

Although historically present all over the world for hundreds of years, shisha has made its way into the Fort Collins tobacco market. Traditionally smoked from a large hookah water pipe, residents need not travel far to experience this Middle Eastern tradition.

Hookah smoking originally began in India centuries ago. The water pipe was later perfected in Turkey and spread to other countries in the Middle East and North Africa, including Iran and Egypt. The tradition of hookah smoking is non-gender-discriminatory and is most often a form of relaxation for men and women alike.

Compared to cigarettes, shisha "lasts a lot longer. It's a lot smoother and not as harsh on my lungs," Gray said.

The hookah uses a water base as a vacuum along with charcoal to ignite the smoking process.

"It's not a direct combustion process, the charcoal never touches the tobacco," Klamm said.

Algiers, having just opened Dec. 2, is small but very peaceful. Middle Eastern style draperies line the tables and booths, with colorful lamps dimly lighting the room. Shoes are left outside of the sampling area, and warm tea is offered complimentary to everyone choosing to sample their products.

However, with the city's strict smoking ordinances, this retail tobacco outlet is not to be confused with hookah bars that populate California, Miami Beach, Las Vegas, Chicago and even Denver.

"There is a no smoking ordinance in Fort Collins, so hookah bars are illegal," said Fort Collins city council member David Roy, dist. 6.

Because Algiers, located near the intersection of Laurel Street and College Avenue, is considered a retail tobacco outlet, establishing itself as a Fort Collins business was not difficult.

"We got all our licenses without any problems," Klamm said.

Regardless of their legal titles, Algiers has succeeded in providing a tranquil place where people can enjoy the sweet flavors of the shisha tobacco and relax from daily stress.

"This is my first time," Gray said, "but I plan on coming a lot more."

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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