New owners make much-needed changes to Three Kings

On Nightlife


December 06, 2007|By Sam Sessa

A couple of years ago, Three Kings of Egypt was undisputedly the cheapest, most authentic hookah bar in town.

Sure, with the plain chairs and bare tables there was nothing fancy about the decor, but Three Kings delivered plenty of substance.

Over time, the prices of hookahs crept up in the Federal Hill lounge, and the level of service drastically dropped. It felt like the owners didn't care about the place anymore, and just wanted to get as much money out of it as they could.

As such, Three Kings' closing in October came as no surprise.

When new owner (and former patron) Denise Anderson and her son Kenneth reopened the hookah bar last month, the first changes they made were to lower the price of a hookah back down to $9, rehire some of the old help and add some American items to the menu. All three were good moves.

The prices and service are really what matters. Not many people sitting in a hookah bar are going to order burgers or fries, but it's nice to have that option.

"We just want it to be a relaxing place," Anderson said. "It's a new experience for me. But I've spent so much time in Three Kings for the past year, I think we're going to be really successful at it."

Anderson added one or two new decorative lighting fixtures, but kept the decor the same for the short term. Most importantly, she thoroughly cleaned the place before opening.

In the coming months, Anderson said, she may invest more money on furnishings, but she doesn't need to. I've never been to a hookah bar in Egypt, but I'll bet most of them aren't super-fancy with expensive rugs everywhere. Instead, Anderson should fix the cracked glass on the front door.

Three Kings' previous owners had a $5 minimum per person that they rarely enforced. Anderson does. It's annoying, but understandable.

When we were there on a recent Saturday, our server was talking to someone else on a Bluetooth headset when she brought us our check, which caused some confusion. That's unacceptable. Otherwise, we had no complaints with the service.

Not many people were in the place last weekend, but that's probably because a chunk of the old crowd doesn't realize it's open again. It may take Anderson time to rebuild a large clientele. But she deserves it.

Toward the end of its previous ownership, Three Kings allowed patrons to bring their own wine and beer, as long as they paid a fee. Anderson thinks it's more trouble than it's worth and won't allow BYOB. But she should reconsider it.

Customers of Zeeba Lounge, the hookah bar across the street, can bring beer, as long as they pay a buck a bottle, I believe. If Three Kings, like the nearby restaurant Thai Arroy, had free BYOB, it would bring in twice as many customers.

Either way, Anderson has brought back the old Three Kings many people knew and loved. It's once again a post-dinner or post-bar go-to for hookah fans.

Three Kings of Egypt is at 1027 Light St. Hours are 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 4 p.m.-4 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 4 p.m.-midnight Sundays. Belly dancers perform Friday and Saturday nights.

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