The Rabbit Hole is closing its doors and making way for a new hookah lounge

Sheri Smith smokes apple-flavored shisha at hookah lounge the Rabbit Hole three days before its final closing. Photo by Nate Kiernan.
Sheri Smith smokes apple-flavored shisha at hookah lounge the Rabbit Hole three days before its final closing. Photo by Nate Kiernan.

In Persian, it’s called narghile; in Sanskrit, narikera, Indian, nargile, Arabic, hashish and in English, shisha. Most Americans, however, are probably more familiar with the term, “Hookah.”

Though several countries contest the exact origins of hookah, with India, Iran, Turkey, Egypt and Syria, all fighting for the right to be named its official founder, this smoking art has existed for centuries.

Dating back to the 1600s in Turkey, it rose in popularity around the time of Murad IV, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. It is likely this smoking practice was founded independently across the world before becoming the commonly shared cross-cultural phenomenon it is today.

Through its vast journey across time and space, hookah has managed to find its own residence and create its own community here in Maryville, Tenn. at The Rabbit Hole, a local lounge squashed on the corner of East Broadway Avenue, neighbored by Southland Books and Cafe.

The lounge was opened on July 4, 2012 and will permanently close on March 18. A new steampunk themed lounge called Cloudworks will be opened by Cody Moyers with continued involvement from Rabit Hole owner Rick Huddleston. Moyers plans to focus on the latest hookah innovations, and is currently seeking artists to decorate the new space.

Since its opening, The Rabbit Hole has been beloved by Maryville College students and the city as one of Maryville’s most unique hangout spots.

For nearly five years, Huddleston has been stocking the lounge with flavors as varied and fast changing as Tennessee’s weather, choosing from what is in season and rotating between popular picks that range from mint to apple to white gummy bear, my personal favorite.

“There was nothing in Maryville for 18 to 24-year-olds to do,” said Huddleston. “It was a niche that needed to be filled.”

Commenting on why he chose the name “The Rabbit Hole,” Huddleston says it was out of a love of Lewis Carrol’s ‘trippy, hippy’ Alice in Wonderland, believing it to be “something everyone can relate to.”

Cloudworks will be a reboot of The Rabbit Hole and will carry on the spirit of its predecessor.

“It’ll have new products, new hookahs, new flavors,” said Huddleston. “It’s keeping pace with the shisha movement.”

Though a location for Cloudworks has yet to be determined, Moyers estimated it will be open in June, however, the amount of financial backing it receives on its Go Fund Me page will be a determining factor.

Moyers stressed, “It’s not a bar or a lounge; it’s a place where people can gather and communicate. The motto is, ‘Create something social.’ Things happen here: games, movies. We want a safe, judgement-free place, a space with open-minded people where everyone feels comfortable, nothing like a club scene with obnoxious music and flashing lights. Just a place to hang out.”

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