“I don’t think they’ve done enough market analysis.” Violetville neighbors question hookah cafe proposition


BALTIMORE – Some people are contesting the opening of a hookah cafe scheduled for April / May 2022 at Wilken’s Plaza. Hours of operation are a major concern.

“You won’t be able to convince us that staying open until 4 am is a good idea,” said Violetville neighbor Ashley Esposito. “It doesn’t make sense. Nothing is open until 4 in the morning.”

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

“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 kind of impact it will have and that’s the problem.

Neighbors told WMAR-2 News they are already facing car break-ins, off-road motorcycle rides and petty crime in the area. The concern is that hookah coffee could draw the wrong crowds.

“There are too many young kids around here that would go up there and then at 4 am that’s just not a good thing,” said Kathy Mullin.

WMAR spoke to owner Nidal Alshalabi.

He told us he chose the location because it is far enough from downtown Baltimore and can control the clientele.

“It will be aimed at 25 to 40 year olds,” Alshalabi said.

Regarding opening hours, he said, although he understood people’s concern at 4 a.m., he said there would be no alcohol being served and that the atmosphere of the cafe was controlled and would be monitored.

“I have a security plan in place both inside and out,” he said.

This is not Alshalabi’s first business venture. He has two other businesses at Wilkens Plaza.

“I meet people privately, talk to them via text, and have zoom meetings,” he said. “I do my best to be a businessman and a member of the community.”

At present, Alshalabi is in talks with the owner about the rental and is going through the appropriate municipal agencies, including the Ministry of Health which oversees his type of business.

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