Name of bar: Euphoria Hookah Lounge
Address: 434-A East Haley Street
Days/hours: Wed.-Sun., 4-11 p.m., or later
Known for: Hookah, psychedelic art, live bands, private parties
Patrons: Punks and hippies in their late twenties and thirties
Location: The corner of Haley and Olive, between the bustle of lower State and the East Side
Find of the night: Snack options include Fig Newtons and oatmeal cookies!
Notable decoration: Elaborately demented Magic Marker painting of the Caterpillar, the Mad Hatter, and March Hare
Do I need to know how to light a hookah?: No, they’ll do it for you.
Where’s the alcohol?: BYOB
Is bathroom graffiti encouraged?: Yep! There’s a cup of sharpies on the tank.
My experience: I slowed my bike and idled past, cautiously observing the crowd laughing and smoking at drinking at the door. Was this the place? A word was spelled out in white Christmas lights wired to a chain link fence, and maybe it spelled “Euphoria.” I recognized a shock of bleached blonde hair and knew I was at the right place.
The inside was a phantasmagoria, a chaotic ruin of fabric and light that disarmed the senses. A woman leaned forward on a dilapidated sofa and illuminated her camera with a lighter in preparation for the show. Euphoria is first and foremost a venue, a space to share with people who’d come for the same reasons you had. It was like the clubhouse from your childhood, updated for your adult vices.
Psychedelic art had replaced juvenile pinups and posters of sports heroes, but the Christmas lights strung at random remained. You came and were welcomed by your friends, and you were choosing your adventure together.
At the end of the first set, a killer performance led by a lady with a voice like a razor blade, the main act took the stage. The Gentlemen of Verona were a fresh import from Belgium, all rock and roll and punk. The lead femme fatale stepped onto the platform, propped her cowboy boot on the bass drum, leaned in, and took a swig from a label-less bottle. With her fishnets, leotard, and military jacket, she had the look of a USO performer gone through hell and back. Someone was projecting Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island. The vocalist turned to face the crowd, and we saw beautiful sirens and massive crab men dance on the pale of her face. Hard and alive, the music wailed as the room filled with shisha smoke and the howls of delighted deviants.
But for all that hardness, Euphoria cultivated a deeper sense of harmony. Hippies and rockers shared hoses, the friendly staff talked us through all the shisha flavors — displayed on a big white board as though they were ice cream flavors — and we ended the night with familiar snacks from the counter.
This was Euphoria on June 7, and this was the picture we’d chosen to paint that night. And who knew what it would be like on June 8. But right then, right there, with those people, it was pretty close to perfect.