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November 11, 2008

Drama at Zeeba Lounge

$10 minimum

As I mentioned before, Amie, a couple friends and I hit up Zeeba Lounge and the new Arabian Nights for a nightlife column Friday.

We found ourselves in quite the pickle at Zeeba Lounge.

After waiting 30 minutes to get in (!), we ordered a hookah with double apple-flavored shisha, which cost $12 and came quickly.

We smoked it for a while, then asked for our check. That’s when the trouble started.

Our server told us the check would be $40, not $12.

Turns out, Zeeba has a $10 minimum per person policy ...


Our server showed us the notice on the menu, and said it was also posted outside the front door. She was right – there are 12 signs on the front of Zeeba Lounge, and two of them state this policy. We missed them both, and that was our fault.

However, if you’re going to make people pay at least $10 just to sit down inside your lounge, you owe them the courtesy of telling them this before they order anything.

Right when we sat down, our server should have said, “just so you know, there is a $10 charge per person, so keep that in mind when you order.” Or, they could do away with this impudent fee and make patrons pay a cover charge instead.

We were outraged.

Our server flagged down a manager, who wrangled with us for a few minutes. Finally, to get us off his hands, he agreed to only charge us for the hookah. We left $12 on the table and walked out.

We got about a block before the bouncer chased us down, bill in hand. Turns out, we forgot to pay the 72-cent tax on our hookah. They sent a bouncer after us for 72 cents!


(Photo by me) 

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (32)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


An insane policy. Why don't they just charge $5 or $10 bucks at the door and be done with it? Probably because no one would go there in the first place.

Sounds like place that's going to justifiably suffer negative word of mouth. Their charging basicly a cover charge after you are sitted is kind of entrapment. The operating assumption must be, those would pass on entering if there was a cover charge, and not noticing or missing their decidely unstated posts, will be less likely to walk out once sitted.

Think they should to be told to kiss my a** and order their closed signs now. Particularly after chasing down an already disgruntled customers for $0.72. The idea usually is that businesses to make nice to at least placate unsatisfied customers to prempt the backlash of being bad mouthed.

I trust there will a published account of this in the print edition of The Sun.

Let them fix this damaging, damning public relations problem that has arisen because of their stinginess.

ouch. 72 cents? did you pay the bouncer in exact change, or just toss him a dollar?

Allan, I tossed a single onto the sidewalk, spit on it and said "PICK IT UP YOU WRETCH! DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?!?!? AAAAAH!!!!"

GDA, yes, this will be in Thursday's paper. It's part of my nightlife column.

So if this place is BYOB they expect each person to get their own hookah (in order to meet the minimum)? Isn't relaxing with a hookah supposed to be a communal kind of activity? This place makes no sense...

They should change the sign (the one you posted)...they say there is "No Admission Fee", but there really is if each person has to buy $10 of stuff.

Zeeba has always been like that, pretty hostile to their customers and they even charge a corking/bottle fee if you bring your own alcohol. At least, the last (and forever) time I went there that was the case.

Also universally speaking if you order any shisha flavor at all at almost any hookah place you will always receive double apple. Mocha? Strawberry? Yeah you're getting double apple.

Alladin's (currently the Key Highway Pit Stop) used to be the best hookah joint around - pleasant people eager to please, and no ridiculous fees. They still serve shisha as far as I know but their hours are much more restricted nowadays.

To avoid issues like this, I'd recommend ICE Hooka Lounge in Towson. They're pretty up front about the fact that they charge per person, but I remember us once telling them that we had a friend with us that could not smoke, and they did not charge for him.

I think the prices ran between $5-$9 per person, depending on how many people you're with. We went with 4 people, smoked for about 2 hours, and were charged $20+ tax and tip. The music is pretty good and a friend told me they not have a flat-screen TV as well.

Alan Laz wrote:
"We went with 4 people, smoked for about 2 hours"

This is tobacco, right? I can't imagine sitting around smoking tobacco for more than ten minutes without the thought of getting sick (and I'm a smoker). Obviously, I've never smoked a hookah...which is very odd when you consider I used to live in both Iran and Morocco (both countries had something better to smoke than tobacco).

Jeff, shisha is different than straight tobacco. It's infused with fruits such as apple or strawberry, and goes down really smoothly. That's why you can sit down and smoke it for a while. You're right -- I can't imagine smoking anything but a cigar for two hours straight.

Re-reading I discovered miss read their posted sign, but it seems they are rather hostile to customers that patronize their business who just come to use the hookahs and aren't there to dine.

If you waited 30 minutes to get in, business is brisk enough with enough people who don't have a problem with policies. Maybe it's a city thing but I've never been charge to have a bottle uncorked, at least not to date. Sounds like a description of a law office given by one of their staffers, "Don't do anything that isn't billable and make everything billable".

Maybe at some future point they'll charge you a processing fee for adding up your bill and handling your payment, like ticket agents even at the box office of the theater.

an aside, I always had a problem with an 18% graduity for parties of 8 or more. To me it means your taxed to pay for service which may be crappy, but then again I've been really burned.

The whole thing was ridiculous. Our server had come up to the table multiple times and asked if we needed anything- she could easily have told us then that "by the way its $10 per person." Furthermore, once you go in, the $10/person requirement was only listed on the interior of the dining menu, which we never opened, since we were only ordering a hookah (and there was a separate menu for that). They could not possibly have been less understanding. Arabian nights will kick their a$$ and it will be awesome.


You waited 30 minutes and didn't read any of the 12 signs posted in/on/on the outside walls stating their policy? Anyone else would've memorized them after 30 minutes. They even posted them on the menu and you still want them to verbally tell you? I know, I know, you owned up to it and I know you're still sore at them, but sorry, they posted the rules and you weren't on your A-game.
As for chasing you down the street for 72cts! That's worse then you not paying attention. That's one of two things in my view. 1. They are being vindictive over you wrangling over the bill. 2. They are cheap Persians. Or it could be a little from column A and little from column B. But in your defense Sam, those signs are pretty cheap and small.

Well, the place has a laminated paper sign duct-taped to the front window. Can you really expect much?

(and does anyone else think GDA should stop posting until he/she gets a grip on the keyboard [and the early-morning bottle]? Talk about billable hours... Sheesh.)

Ginger, I agree. There were mistakes made on both sides. But they could have handled the situation much better.

agree that we should have seen them... but in our defense, we were with friends at 12:30am after a long night out. we sat and ate pizza. heaven forbid we converse with each other instead of reading ugly sign decor.


if you read the ugly sign decor you wouldn't be crying about a 40 tab and be chased down the street for 72 cts. How long does it take to read that cr@ppy sign, 7,8 seconds tops. No one is that interesting to talk to none stop.

Jojo - Agree and Agree

Sam - Agree

sorry, non-stop. moving on...

ahem. sorry ginger, but unlike you, when i'm out with my friends, we are interested in conversing. and there's no requirement about reading every sign posted. and i already said we should have seen them. no need to get all snippy.

further, ginger, its clearly not true that "anyone else" would have memorized them after 30 minutes, since none of us did. and the requirement was printed inside on a menu that we never opened. you weren't there, stop judging.


reanimating a dead issue - zombie news

Ummmm. Ginger, you need to deal with your blatant racism. "Cheap Persians?" That's outrageous. Interesting how you are so worked up about people not reading posted signs but you seem to be completely okay with spouting off racist stereotypes. I'm equally baffled at how subsequent posts haven't called you out on your racist comment. Check yourself.

Sorry ummmm, regardless of this flame war, yes Persians will rob you blind, YOU will walk on the other side of the street when you see three black guys walking toward you, koreans/indians rob us for everything in any 7/11 corner store. The reason no one called her on it is because they agree. So get off you cross hon, we need the wood to keep the still goin'. There's an old saying, "Jews think the Armenians are cheap and the Armenians think the Persians are thrifty." There's a reason it's a known saying, it's generally true. Do I get upset when people say ALL IRISH are drunks and have 13 kids in a family? No, yet oddly enough, THERE ARE alot of large Irish families and the Irish also drink alot. Jeez, I love how you start flame wars sam.

whoa. How about the Armenians on The Shield? How hard is it to root for Vic Mackey now!

just Wondering, there is such a thing as political correctness run amuk. ginger said cheap cheap Persians, not Persians. That adjective makes all the difference.

@ just wondering -- how did I start a flame war? looks to me like ginger rose lit the match.

@ stebbin -- you're right.

Well Sam Sessa you should remember i am the Bouncer who chased you down for a lousy $.72! First off it is posted outside that there is a $10 per person minimum and then when you get inside and look at the hooka menu it is there is bold red letters. On the menu there it is also. As for tell the friendly people how you did not throw a dollar down but you kindly handed it to me and then walked away complaining this was going to break you. See your type think that you can go into a place of business, sit for an hour or two and then just pay a little. This is a place of Business. Why is it that we can have a party of 20+ people come from out of town(CA) spend 3+ hours and have a great time there, spend $350+ and then come back the next night because they had a wonderful time? We have our regulars that come every weekend and love it there.
Yet you come in and complain about spending a lousy $10 per person with your friends. Damn i would hate to see what you would do hosting a party? Frosted flakes for all?

Mike "The Bouncer",

In the particular public relations debacle, your part is merely an exclamation point.

Sam has already conceded that the fault was his for missing the posted/printed ten dollar minimum. It still would been a good thing for the wait staff to inform new or unfamiliar customers of policy, or have a placard on the table as I have seen other places.

For the benefit of the ignorant, is this a new policy? The picture posted shows a chintzy possibly photocopied placard hastily taped to the glass which comes across as unprofessional and careless, always a good first impression.

Incidentally, I don’t find any mention of this $10 minimum per person policy mention on their website. First discovering this at the door or on the menu would start the evening with a bad taste in my mouth, since they do make a point of mentioning and underlining they charge a corking fee.

If their really concerned with people making small purchases hanging out, they should charge a cover charge at the door then deduct that amount from the bill, like contractors charge for making an estimate on a job but deduct it if they actual get the job.

“a party of 20+ people come from out of town(CA)” Very nice and always very welcomed, but this sort of clientele is icing on the cake of customers, who frequently have the benefit of an expense account with a lot of leeway. Not good example of the typical diners to make your point.

Intended or not, what you are saying is that people shouldn’t come just to spend some time savoring the experience of a Hookah, which according to their website “can accommodate up to four people. People gather to smoke hookahs to “relax” without worries of addiction or intoxication.”
It also sounds they don’t want people who have gone to a club or a show to stop in afterwards for a cup of coffee and dessert to end their evening. It seems to me these are a local market of regulars that I would think Zeeba would want to court.

Having you chase Sam and company down for a “lousy” $0.72 comes across as petty to the extreme, a move that seems designed to make sure that they never consider going back under any circumstance, even if they are hosting a group like the California party. Great move by a part of a service industry that often lives or dies by word of mouth of their customers or disgruntled customers.

Don’t assume, Sam may be every bit, if not more, of host if he knows what the ground rules are if he chooses to entertain at a restaurant or has a catered affair, but you probably will never experience that because it is highly unlikely that it will be at or catered by Zeeba Lounge.

just Wondering,

“The reason no one called her on it is because they agree.”
No as Stebbin pointed out, some of us recognise that “cheap” Persians dosen’t mean all Persians.

Just wondering why a place so small would even need a "bouncer". Why not a host or hostess who could also inform new customers of the policy before they are seated. I'm sure this wasn't the first time someone hadn't read the notice.
And in regards to "a" vs ginger I have to side with "a". I could talk nonstop to my friends and boyfriend without noticing any signage because they are that interesting.

Drama is worse at Zeeba, I was there late night meeting up with a friend of mine and the waitress walked out as i was getting ready to walk in and she claimed to be slapped by the manager. Her face was really red and she had teary eyes. I wonder if this was the same waitress and if this happened the same night as this customer commented.

I've been going to Zeeba lounge for 4 years. All the servers are really nice. The manager is a great guy.

I, being a server myself, can say that not always do you have time to inform guests of house requirements when you have 9 other tables to tend to. Especially when the rules are posted in several different areas. Honestly, 10 dollar a person is really good. You can bring your own wine and corking it can go toward the bill requirement. It's so much cheaper than buying it from a bar.

My advice to the main post is...maybe next time you should let loose and enjoy yourself a little more, not worry about money so much. Also, tip your waitress. It's not her fault that you're not attentive.

Just my little piece on a lounge I've been going to for years now. Great place..i suggest trying it out if you haven't been there.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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