As you’re walking down a dimly-lit hallway and making your way into a large, brightly-colored room, you can hear the DJ playing R&B music as you see a dance floor packed with bodies. It’s just another Thursday night at Off the Hookah.
Local nightclub Off the Hookah has three locations in Florida, one in Virginia and now one in Plattsburgh. It has become well-known for bringing in famous artists and DJs to perform there.
While they were exclusively a 21-and-up nightclub for almost a year, Plattsburgh is now the only franchise location that offers an “18 and up night.”
Devin Hilts, manager of Off the Hookah, says they had the idea since the end of last year but didn’t start having events until the start of this fall semester.
“I sat down with the mayor and explained to him what we were going to do — have a party for people who were under 21 without alcohol,” Hilts said.
Hilts wanted a place where kids could go and not be tempted to use fake IDs.
“It’s been good so far. They’re just coming to have a good time,” he said.
Hilts warns that if Off the Hookah starts running into problems, in terms of behavior, the club could stop the Thursday night parties at any time.
Hilts said they separate the age groups in two rooms divided by a garage door. The 18-and-up crowd take up the front area of the club, and those 21 and up take the back room, where alcohol is served.
As of now, Hilts is pleased with the Thursday night turn outs. “The goal is to always be busy,” Hilts said. “We’ve been talking about doing bigger and better things.”
For the club’s one-year anniversary in October, Hilts said the staff is thinking of bringing two artists up to Plattsburgh to perform.
Hilts said they plan to expand the 18 and up night to Friday nights as well. With the help of a promoter, who comes up with the theme for Thursday nights, they plan on eventually bringing in bigger names to the area.
“There’s really no venue that does that in the area,” Hilts said.
For David Damiani, a sophomore and philosophy major at Plattsburgh State, it all started when he was by himself on a Saturday night and had nothing to do. Damiani knew he wasn’t the only who felt this way. “This has to change,” he said. “There has to be something where we’ll be able to have a good time and be open for anyone to come in.”
Originally, Damiani wanted an end of the school year party at Off the Hookah, but it was too short of notice and Hilts wanted to make sure they got it right. The two kept in contact over the summer, and when Damiani got back to Plattsburgh, they agreed on a weekly “party” on Thursday nights.
Damiani acts a promoter for Off the Hookah’s “18-and-up night.” He frequently posts about new events on his Facebook page. He is charge of planning events and coming up with themes for Thursday nights. “Our duty as organizers is to create an entirely new atmosphere every single time. So it’s a different effect every time you come to Hookah.”
Resident DJ and tech support for guest DJs at Off the Hookah Christopher Brown said the problem with a lot of night clubs is that don’t try to create a scene.
“They’re just trying to sell drinks,” Brown said. “If you don’t have a scene it’s risky to bring DJs from out of the area,” he said. “If you book a house DJ and you just throw him into a nightclub, and it doesn’t have a scene established, it’s like you’re throwing him to the lions.”
Over the past weeks there has been a ’90s theme, a Throwback Thursday night and a Grand Theft Auto themed night.
In addition to different themes every Thursday, there are different DJs to keep things fresh.
Shawn Pancham recently served as a disc jockey at the club and said Off the Hookah can be a go-to spot every Thursday.
“House parties get shut down. At least here you can come and spend your money, and you know you’ll enjoy the party and not worry about getting kicked out,” Pancham said.
Bouncer at Off the Hookah Steven Burtis said the attitude and behavior of club-goers has been good.
“We have been having issues the past couple of weeks catching people in line with water bottles filled with alcohol,” he said. “If people have bottles with alcohol in them, they are not allowed in,” Burtis said.
Also implemented at Off the Hookah is a stamp system. Those who have paid get stamped and must put their hand under a black light each time they go in and out. If you don’t have a stamp, you’ll have to pay $5 before 11 p.m. and $7 after. Burtis said if you’re there to have a good time, you’ll be fine. But if you’re there to cause trouble, it will not be tolerated.
Email David Luces at firstname.lastname@example.org.