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Chez Manelle owner to open new hookah bar in Courthouse

August 9, 2010 - 01:29 AM
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Chedlia Dridi of Adams Corner
Chedlia Dridi is about to open Adams Corner, a hookah bar in Arlington. (Photo: Rebecca A. Cooper)

Chedlia Dridi has been one busy woman this year.

Less than a year ago, she launched the D.C. area’s only Tunisian restaurant, Chez Manelle, in Arlington's Courthouse neighborhood. Now she's getting set to open a hookah and jazz bar, the very one that Clarendon Culture spotted last week, two doors down at 2319 Wilson Blvd.

As if that weren't enough, Dridi is also in the process of re-opening Moon of Lima, a Peruvian chicken restaurant in Gaithersburg that opened earlier this year, but shuttered abruptly when Dridi and her business partner parted ways.

Oh yeah, and she’ll be operating all three on the side of the aircraft spare parts business she owns and operates out of Arlington, Mannoul International, Inc.

“That’s been very lucrative, and that’s why I can do this,” she says of her double life as a businesswoman and restaurateur. “I’m doing this for pleasure.”

Over a pine nut and mint-laced cup of Tunisian tea at Chez Manelle, Dridi, petite and usually smiling, outlines her plans for the hookah bar. She's dubbed it Adams Corner (it's located at the corner of Wilson and North Adams Street) and hopes to see the 1,300-square-foot space open by Labor Day or shortly after. On the menu will be light fare, including cold sandwiches, paninis and salads for lunch and dinner, but the main attraction will be the bar and live jazz music.

At first, Dridi preferred the idea of  a simple jazz bar, but once she noticed how popular hookah bars had become in Arlington, she decided to make that part of the business. “When I built the concept, I wasn’t sure if we would have (hookah), but everyone wants it,” she says.

It doesn’t hurt that the ample patio space at the new bar, which formerly served as the full-service restaurant side of Listrani’s pizza restaurant next door, is perfect for hookah service. (Listrani's shuttered the restaurant in January, freeing up the space.)

Since Virginia enacted its ban on smoking last year, hookah bars are required to accommodate smokers in either a separately ventilated room or at outdoor tables. Adams Corner will offer somewhere between 36 to 48 seats outside on the wraparound patio; the same, if not more, than the bar will seat inside.

Dridi also worked out a deal with Listrani’s so that her bar can use their patio seating area after the pizza place closes at 9 p.m.

What about when winter comes? The solution employed by many hookah bars, including the massive Tarbouch on Lee Highway, is to close off the outdoor smoking area with plastic awnings, but that’s a no-no on Wilson Blvd., according to county code.

Instead, "we’ll most likely add an indoor section," Dridi says. "I’m waiting to see what the demand is like." There’s a small area that could be closed off in the front of the restaurant.

Adams Corner’s opening will likely be no frills. It won’t have obtained its special permit for live music yet, and Dridi says she may even open just for food and hookah if the liquor license hasn’t come through by then.


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