A proposed hookah bar at 1351 W. Belmont Ave. is in limbo as the two partners consider community support for their business and work to renegotiate a lease for the space. The proposed smoker’s haven came to prominence as the partners confronted a buzz saw of opposition at a community meeting last September.
“We put everything on hold after we had the meeting with the neighborhood group. It’s a side project for both of us,” said Nihad Avdic, who has partnered with long-time friend Ali Eli on the project. Avdic is the general manager of a South Side trucking firm while Eli is finishing business school.
The contingent lease on the Belmont space, the former Paper Boy store next to Shuba’s Tavern, is set to expire soon, so Avdic and Ali are working to renew the lease with the leasing agent. They must have a signed lease in order to request a special use permit, which has been required in Chicago for new smoking lounges since the 2008 smoking ban was put into effect.
In addition, the city requires locations for new smoking lounges to be free standing buildings, says Avdic. “We did a lot of research. We looked at a lot of areas. These freestanding buildings are hard to come by. We were happy when we found the place,” he said.
“Hopefully in a few weeks we can get the lease renegotiated again and move forward. We need to talk to Alderman [Scott Waguespack (32nd)] to hear his thoughts. We’ve talked to his staff but not him,” said Advic.