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'I don't think they've done enough market analysis.' Violetville neighbors question hookah cafe proposal

Posted at 5:54 PM, Oct 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-28 17:54:34-04

BALTIMORE — Some people are taking issue with a planned hookah cafe set to open in April/May of 2022 in the Wilken's Plaza. A major point of concern are the hours of operation.

"You’re not going to be able to convince us that staying open until 4 AM is a good idea," said Violetville neighbor Ashley Esposito. "It just doesn’t make any sense. Nothings open till 4 a.m."

Esposito is part of a neighborhood association and group of individuals who wants more input from the hookah bar owner.

"He's a great businessman," she said. "We love his deli. But I don't think he's done enough market analysis to really see what type of impact it'll have and that's the problem.

Neighbros tell WMAR-2 News they're already dealing with car break-ins, dirt bike riding, and minor crime in the area. The concern is that the hookah cafe might bring the wrong crowds.

"There are too many young children around here that would be going up there and then 4 o’clock in the morning, it’s just not a good thing," said Kathy Mullin.

WMAR spoke to the owner Nidal Alshalabi.

He said told us he picked the location because it's far enough away from downtown Baltimore City and that he can control the clientele.

"It will cater to 25 to 40-year-olds," said Alshalabi.

As for the hours of operation he said while he understands people's 4 a.m. concern, he said there will be no alcohol served, and that the vibe of the cafe is control and will be monitored.

"I have a security plan in place both in and outside," he said.

This isn't Alshalabi's first business venture. He has two other businesses in Wilkens Plaza.

"I'm meeting with people privately, talking to them through text and having zoom meetings," he said. "I'm doing my best to be a business man and a community member."

Right now, Alshalabi is in talks with the landlord over leasing and is going through proper city agencies, including the Department of Health which oversees his type of business.