Students roar for Crimson Lion

Brittany Hayes, Reporter

The Crimson Lion Hookah Lounge and Café in Wilkes- Barre is quickly becoming one of the trendiest places for college students to socialize and embrace multiculturalism.

Hookah lounges features the communal enjoyment of flavored tobacco, a practice that dates back centuries in many civilizations throughout the world. The Crimson Lion offers high-quality hookah, a café that serves up lattes and regular entertainment.

“I thought that this idea would really work because Wilkes-Barre is a college town and the main demographic would be 18-20 year olds who don’t really have a lot of options when it comes to late night hang-outs. It would also appeal to the 21-30 age group because it is a good alternative to the bar scene,” said Pasquini. “We apply to college kids, of course, but we get local professors, free thinkers, artists, and musicians as well,” said manager Josh Karis.

The menu features cappuccinos, lattes, drip coffee as well as two specialty drinks, Butterbeer, the drink made famous through Harry Potter, and Birthday Cake, a new spin on hot chocolate that includes whipped cream, sprinkles, and Lucky Charms Marshmallows.

The Lion focuses on local foods. “It’s really great to keep things local. We get our milk from Hillside Farms, coffee from Caffe Fresco, baked goods from Sweet Little Things by Maria Bernardo, and Baklava from Pete’s Place Middle Eastern Restaurant , which is right next store. By getting all of these locally we have a good bond within the community, no middle man, and everyone we work with aren’t just interested in only getting the job done, they are interest in giving us the best stuff they possibly can,” said Karis.

Pasquini got the idea for the place when an out-of-town friend wanted to go to a local hookah lounge. “There were none around at the time. So I got to thinking it would be a good idea to open one. I was in a job where I had a lot of free time, so I used that time to create my business plan,” said Pasquini.

The Lion is not only a place for smoking, Pasquini said. “We have open mic night every Thursday as demand requests. We have had comedy nights in the past with local comedians, book club meetings, and usually one Sunday per month we have shows that are set up by Eric Davis of Get Cryptic who has connections from Philadelphia and New York City and has gotten some really good bands to play at the lounge.” The Lion also has a vast collection of books and board games, and it offers free Wi-Fi for customers.

Pasquini expended upon the theme when a friend who worked in a top-rated New York café introduced the idea of opened that part of the business. The friend returned to his native Wilkes-Barre to help set up shop. “He did research on coffee forums to try to find the best roaster and we came across Caffe Fresco, which was extremely highly rated, and run out of Jenkins Township – only one town over,” said Pasquini.

The Crimson Lion is unconventional for the area, but it has been very successful. “It works really well because it’s an opportunity for customers to experience our two products, coffee and hookah, and they are both of the highest quality,” said Karis.

The Crimson Lion carries Starbuzz shisha, including flavors such as Pirates Cave, which tastes of lime, Code 69, which is cherry flavor, and blue raspberry flavored Blue Mist among many others. The Lion also carries Staruzz Bold shisha in a bubblegum flavor, and Nakhla and Al Fahker, traditional Middle Eastern brands. Prices vary from $9 for a one hose order to $22 dollars for a three hose hookah, which includes a refill. Patrons can smoke out of regular ceramic bowls, or an exotic carved fruit bowl. Patrons can even choose to add bubbles to blow with their smoke.

Pasquini opened a second Crimson Lion in Bloomsburg late last year. “I was considering expanding and was approached by two customers who actually found a location in Bloomsburg for me and they now run the place.” This location is about three times the size as the Wilkes-Barre location and offers events that include a Rave Night the last Saturday of every month.

The Crimson Lion is located at 37 East South Street in Wilkes-Barre and is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 1 a.m., Saturday from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m., and is closed on Sundays except for shows which are announced weekly. Patrons must be 18 years of age to smoke. IDs are required.