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Jamaica Junction Hookah Lounge Goes Up In Smoke

The distinct smell of incense and sheesha that fumes from the State College head-shop, Jamaica Junction, has been replaced with an odor of fresh paint as the section of the store dedicated to smoking hookah is being replaced with expanded retail space.

Yesterday a renovation crew went to work dismantling every part of the hookah lounge that you probably thought was really frickin’ cool when you were high. Walls — which at one time were gratified with classic rock posters and quotes about deep shit — were being painted red, yellow, and green while shelving was noisily nail-gunned to accommodate for new inventory.

Where inviting couches, coffee tables and four-housed hookahs once popped up from the ground like weeds through a sidewalk, the Jamaica Junction management plotted out racks and cases to showcase glass pipes, tie-dye skirts, and Bob Marley ash trays.

According to Michael Hultberg Uncle Mike–Jamaica Junction’s Sam Malone–his “out with the old in with the new” vibe was forced upon him by “government robbing from the small business owner’s because they’re broke and can’t balance a budget.”

“The hookah and all that happened for a decade is suddenly illegal,” he said. “I mean come on, it’s like how they do it with loud music. They know it’s going to happen so they keep raising the fines. It’s all about making a profit.”

Uncle Mike claimed “taxes, permits and regulations” were ultimately the demise of the hookah lounge.

After confessing his support for Ron Paul’s philosophy, he insisted that within the last year he’s had five new taxes levied against his store. “The state’s bankrupt, the local government’s are bankrupt, they can’t pay their bills so they start taxing everything.”

He also spoke about the police seizure that took place at Jamaica Junction earlier this year where the store suffered a loss of an estimated $100,000 in just glass pieces. Though suffering a grave financial hit, Uncle Mike claims he was never pursued with legal charges.

“It’s like [the police] said, we’ve taking all of this. Now you come and try and get it. And in the meantime we’ll go after the petty shit like past debts.”

But Raj Chauhan–the actual owner of Jamaica Junction–spelled a different story in his stiff demeanor and forceful insisting that I do a story after the store “looks all nice.” When asked if he was excited about the renovations he said, “of course, we weren’t making money off of hookahs. That was just for the people, you know?”

Further throwing a monkey wrench in the story was State College Borough Manager, Thomas Fountaine. “I have no clue what [Uncle Mike] is talking about.”

To the claim that Jamaica Junction was slammed with new taxes, Fountaine said “State College hasn’t levied any new taxes and we’re limited in our power to do so by State law.” According to Fountaine, the last new tax in the state of Pennsylvania was voted in around 4 years ago.

Whatever the drama may be, State College is out one more cool place to chill.

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