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Sep 02, 2014
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Sip, smoke and strut at St. Charles’ Sky Lounge
By By Matt Berkley • Photo by Ashley Gieseking
Posted On: 04/01/2009   

On about the third inhale, the tobacco really starts to kick in as a thick cloud of peach-flavored pungency seeps from my throat in a failed attempt at a smoke ring. My friends laugh as I pass the hookah tube and chase my drag with a generous sip from a glass of bourbon and ice. The crowd buzzes around our booth and attacks the bar for endless rounds of shots and draft cups.

Less than a year old, Sky Lounge is St. Charles’ contribution to the hookah bar craze that has been quietly gaining popularity – spots have popped up on South Grand, Delmar, Washington and elsewhere around town. The good news is, as it’s primarily a bar, Sky can shut its doors to the under-21, juice-bar, smoker crowd that infects other hookah lounges. The bad news (depending on what side you’re on) is that Sky doubles as a hip-happening dance club complete with a DJ ready, willing and oh-so-able to pump remixes, pop hits and house music into the late hours. My head hurts just remembering it.

Fortunately for the player-haters like me, Sky’s front lounge provides a pleasantly casual, subdued atmosphere. Across from a well-stocked and otherwise unremarkable bar lies a long row of red leather booths with a few tables draped in black cloths. In a corner window section sits a “VIP area” – really only a few couches and a glass coffee table covered with an oversized hookah pipe and bottles of domestic brew. The décor is dark, as it should be in a lounge, but the owners definitely need to consider dimming the lights. Oh, and eighty-six the unsightly beer posters, beer mirrors and beer neon signs that dot the walls. A back hallway leads to the blue room, a 1,300-square-foot dance floor with its own separate bar.

The hookahs themselves – oversized water pipes with long stems for drawing the smoke – are brought out by the wait staff. For $13, you get your choice from 30 or so varieties of flavored tobacco: blueberry, wild cherry, mango, cognac and passion fruit-Mojito, among others. A group of four can keep one burning for the better part of an hour.

As the night progressed and our hookah began to peter out, I noticed a steadily increasing stream of club-hoppers, prowling singles and all the other creatures of the night that spill into Sky from Main Street, creating a nice mix of 20- to 40-somethings. It’s an amusing place to people-watch: tables of people puffing away at multicolored hookahs; groups of girls milling around the front bar in halter tops and jeans, sipping on Red Bull-vodkas and eyeing the competition while trading gossip; preppies in college tees and polos chugging beers; a few spray-on tan, personal trainer types brushing past on their way to the dance floor, girlfriends in tow; a group of middle-aged ladies out on the town waiting for a friend to deliver a round of fruity shots.

There are no big surprises behind the bar in terms of selection or specialty drinks. Stick with the classics: beers and highballs. The servers can get a bit overwhelmed once the crowd pours in, so for the best experience, plan to get there early (9 or so). Still, it’s hard not to enjoy yourself at Sky Lounge, regardless of what type of night you’re looking for.

Check it: The massive hookah collection.
Hipster or Hoosier: Everyone’s welcome at Sky, from laid-back loungers to club-goers, singles on the prowl to middle-aged booze hounds.
Suds or ‘Tinis: SoCo and Lime shot and a bottle of beer.
Where: The Sky Lounge, 311 N. Main St., St. Charles, 314.363.1605
When: Hookah lounge: Mon. to Sat. – 6 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.; club: Fri. and Sat. – 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. 

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