SUNBIZ

Bula Hookah Lounge Celebrates First Anniversary

“My goal is to educate people about Fiji and its culture. As you know, one of the most heard words in Fiji is ‘bula’.
03 Mar 2021 12:39
Bula Hookah Lounge Celebrates First Anniversary
From left: Bula Hookah Lounge owner Nathan Chand, Irene Chand, Alysha Chand and Bobby Chand.

Bula Hookah Lounge is an ideal crossover of cultures of Fiji and Canada.

Owned by Nathan Chand, a 26-year-old living in Vancouver, British Columbia, in Canada, Buka Hookah Lounge represents his Fijian heritage.

He said he previously worked as a photographer for another hookah lounge and witnessed all the places that needed improvements.

“I realised I could open my own and be much more successful, so that’s exactly what I did,” he said.

Mr Chand is very proud and passionate Fijian.

“When I was younger, I would get mad when people would constantly mistake me as Punjabi or Indian. Consequently, I secretly got a tattoo at the age of 16.”

“Till this day, I have palm trees tattooed on my back with a beach setting with the word ‘FIJIAN’ hovering over the water.”

Mr Chand said he named his lounge ‘Bula Hookah Lounge’ to represent the pride of his 16-year-old self.

“My goal is to educate people about Fiji and its culture. As you know, one of the most heard words in Fiji is ‘bula’.

“The name itself helps attract the many Fijian people living in Canada.”

Mr Chand described the décor of his lounge as tropical with vibrant colours.

A few palm trees, signed rugby jersey by Waisale Serevi, and a map of Fiji.

“We have even had companies contact us asking if we are willing to display their items to represent Fiji.”

He said guests were greeted with either a ‘Bula’ or a ‘Hello’ in the lounge.

“When glasses/plates break in restaurants, the Greek yell ‘Opa!’.

“Here at Bula Hookah Lounge, we yell Bula!.”

Recently celebrating the one year anniversary of the Bula Hookah Lounge, he said the hookahs at the launch were customised to the lounge and have not been seen at any other lounge in North America.

“People from all around Canada are coming to try our hookahs. Lounges in USA are even messaging to ask us to buy these hookahs from us.”

Aside from the hookah, Bula Hookah Lounge also legally serves Kava.

“Currently, we source our kava from Fiji but we will be switching to a local company in California due to COVID-19. Some customers try kava at our lounge for the first time in their lives!”

He added the lounge has an educational pamphlet that gives out important information regarding the lounge.

Mr Chand works as a full as a community liaison officer for Transit Security in Canada along with being the sole owner of the lounge and has also recently opened a barber shop and salon for men and ladies.

 

With the Bula Hookah Lounge, you began with alcohol beverages, but now it’s only kava. Tell us why you have switched to kava and where is it sourced from?
Yes, when we first opened, we served alcohol on Fridays and Saturdays.

We gauged the crowd and the vibe, and it was turning into more of a nightclub which is not what we wanted.

We wanted the environment to be a place with a relaxed atmosphere where you can come enjoy with your friends.

If people want to party and go wild, that’s what the nightclub is for.

We are known as a hookah lounge for a reason, a place to lounge with your friends and smoke hookah.

We were serving alcohol and kava at the same time but after a few weeks decided to remove the alcohol and promote kava and the health benefits that come with it.

Kava at the Bula Hookah Lounge.

Kava at the Bula Hookah
Lounge.

 

How is business faring?
As of today, businesses is booming!

Even though we were told to drop our capacity to stop the spread of COVID-19, we still have loyal customers who support us on the weekdays and new customers who come to visit on the weekends.

On Fridays and Saturdays if you are not at our shop by 9pm, you will expect about a two hour wait to get inside.

We usually average 30 to 50 people on the wait list on Fridays and Saturdays.

We are considered one of the top hookah lounges in all of Canada and have over 200 reviews on Google with an average of 4.9 rating.

 

What are your opening hours?
We are open seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Regardless of the holiday, we offer a place to relax year-round. Sunday to Thursday we are open from 6 pm to 1 am and Friday and Saturday, we are open from 6pm-3am.

 

Did your family background or where you grew up, have an any influence on your career choices?
I followed in the footsteps of my father who has been in the law enforcement field for 29 years.

When I was growing up my father would come home and tell me stories about saving people and arresting criminals, and since a young age I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up.

One of our family home videos shows a toddler Nathan, proclaiming that he would one day arrest someone with handcuffs.

In my role as Transit Security, I have achieved this goal many times.

I have moved up in the company quite rapidly.

I first started as an attendant removing the coins from transit buses.

Eventually, I moved to a position that allowed me to visit schools province-wide to educate the youth on safe public transit use.

I even acted as a supervisor for a while!

I have received awards and letters from the Vice President of the company in recognition of my hard work and contributions.

I also saw how hard my mother and father worked, and the age of 19 I had three jobs so I didn’t need to ask my parents for money when I wanted something.

My goal at a young age was to make $100,000 a year by the age of 30.

I did not know how I’d achieve that goal, but I knew I’d make it one way or another.

Today I can proudly say I have reached that goal, but it definitely didn’t come easy!

 

You had shared your previous drugs/social problems. Tell us a bit about it and how you overcame it?
When I was growing up I had many groups of friends and many temptations.

I was drinking, partying and fighting quite often in high school.

However, my father’s strict guidance and life advice helped to mould my mindset and keep me on the right track.

Till this day, I have yet to associate with any type of drug and I am extremely proud of that.

Not many people know this, but I did not graduate from high school.

At the age of 19 I decided to go to college and complete my certificate in Human Resources.

As you get older you realise education is extremely important because who knows, maybe one day you will get interviewed by Fiji Sun and need to know how respond in a professional manner.

 

What are you doing now to help youths who are going through the same social issues you went through?
As I experienced during my youth, there are always temptations.

There is always a quicker way to make money, and even faster ways of spending it.

I have created an environment for today’s youth to safely enjoy with their friends.

There are many pathways in life, and I want to help the youth steer away from the negative temptations and instead enjoy the many offerings of my lounge.

 

What impact has the current COVID-19 had on your life professional and personal life?
The world is well aware that this pandemic has taken hundreds of thousands of lives.

This is extremely upsetting and I hope it is resolved sooner than later.

Professionally speaking, there have definitely been several obstacles to overcome.

The Health Minister of Canada is constantly updating the rules and regulations around business operations, especially those concerning such a public-facing establishment such as our own.

Time after time, we have complied with these rules to ensure the safety of the public.

These changes include limiting the number of patrons per table, completing COVID-related questionnaires and temperature checks upon entry, and maintaining social distancing.

As for my personal life, there has been little change.

All of my time is spent working, with very little time to sleep.

The best part is having a girlfriend and family by my side no matter what.

My parents and girlfriend know I barley sleep.

So, on their own free time, they help clean the shop and do errands to let me sleep a few hours.

Looking back, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

I would not be where I am without my family and my girlfriend.

The sleepless nights and stressful days is worth it.

We grew up quite poor and one of my goals was to make sure that we don’t ever need to stress about having money or paying bills.
Today, Bula Hookah Lounge is the talk of the town – if not country.

Inside the Bula Hookah Lounge.

Inside the Bula Hookah Lounge.

Have you found any new hobbies that could eventually help the business in the future?
My ongoing interest in hookah and research on the matter is constantly elevating our product and service.

In opening a barber shop, I have been able to attract a completely different sector in visiting my lounge, and vice versa.

 

Does technology play an important role in your business?
Technology is advancing by the second, and I have learned to use this to my advantage.

Months before we even opened the lounge, I started to promote the business via social media.

I made connections, I attracted hundreds of people, and started the buzz.

We had close to 1,000 followers on Instagram before we opened – fast forward one year and we have 8,000 followers from across the world.

As for COVID, the contract tracing machine upon entry has streamlined our processes ten-fold.

The machine presents the customer with a COVID questionnaire, takes the customer’s body temperature, and even dispenses hand sanitiser.

 

Are you planning to open a Bula Hookah Lounge with a similar concept in Fiji?
Opening a Bula Hookah Lounge in Fiji is next on my to-do list.

What better way of promoting the Fijian culture than right in Fiji itself.

It would also be a way of bringing a bit of Canada to Fiji.

 

What are some of your future plans?
I have always had a business and entrepreneurial mindset.

Within a mere 365 days, I have managed to open two successful businesses.

My short-term goal is to have my parents retire within the next few years.

Long-term wise, the sky is the limit!

The anniversary cake at the Bula Hookah Lounge.

The anniversary cake at the Bula Hookah Lounge.

Who were your influences?
To be honest, I haven’t really ever listened to anyone (aside from my parents).

My parents were not my influence, they were my reason, just like how my future family/kids are my reason.

I want to be able to provide for my family and eliminate the financial struggle for generations to come.

 

Do you plan to visit/return to Fiji?
When the time comes, I will definitely make my way to Fiji to open Bula Lounge Fiji.

Hopefully, franchising the business to Fiji will help educate people about Fiji and bring more tourists and visitors to Fiji.

When the time comes my goal is to make Bula Lounge in Fiji one of the top in the world.

 

Feedback: maraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj



Laybuy it 5squares


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