By HEATHER NELLIS
Recorder News Staff
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM -- A Gloversville resident wants to bring some Middle Eastern culture to Route 30 in his proposal for a restaurant and hookah bar.
Kousai Alikhan said he plans to rent the former White Cottage Gardens flower shop at 4740 Route 30, and will serve cold foods like Arabic salads, hummus, and couscous, and in-house prepared hookahs.
That teeters on town approval.
The town Zoning Board of Appeals will hold a public hearing on the proposal at 6:50 p.m. at its March 13 meeting at town hall. The board will then consider zoning implications of the proposal, and whether or not Alikhan will need a variance.
Alikhan wants to open the establishment to take advantage of the increasing popularity of hookah bars in the United States. They're said to have originated in ancient Persia and India, and have been used extensively for centuries as a social activity.
Hookahs, sometimes called water pipes, are used to smoke what Alikhan said is tobacco-free, all-natural, non-addictive, fruit-flavored products.
Alikhan, who is Arabic, said in his travels to Syria, hookahs are so commonplace there's one on every table at any given restaurant. And as a native of New York City, Alikhan said they're becoming popular there, and several have popped up in this region, including Herkimer, Saratoga Springs and Albany.
"They're getting popular, so why not," he said.
Alikhan said the Route 30 structure he wants to occupy is ideal for his vision, and said he hopes to utilize the outdoor space for exterior dining and smoking. Inside, he'll install a ventilation system to filter out the hookah smoke, and the establishment will be for adults aged 18 and older.
"It has the fashion for it, and it's a good location with all the commercial traffic on Route 30," he said. "It will be unique to the area."
There's the potential for a couple jobs in the business venture, and Alikhan also hopes to have his mother work there.
Town Attorney Charles Schwartz said the structure is in an B-1 business zone that allows 19 permitted uses. Though a restaurant is one of those approved uses, a hookah bar isn't, so Schwartz said the zoning board has to determine what the predominant use will be.
Schwartz said Alikhan and his family offered a presentation to the zoning board at its meeting earlier this month, and even fired up a hookah they brought with them. He said they also discussed the type of food they'd like to offer at the restaurant.
"It seems harmless," Schwartz said of the hookah.
"If you are proposing a business in any zone that is not a permitted use under the zoning law, you have to seek a variance," Schwartz said. "Based on [Alikhan's] presentation, the board isn't sure of what would be the predominant business activity. Is it a hookah bar, or is it a restaurant that offers the hookahs on the side. If it's the latter, they won't need a use variance. So it's up to the zoning board to determine whether one is needed, and if they do, then the board will judge it on its merits and determine whether to grant it."