Isis Hookah Lounge in Astoria changes its name to attract ‘more business,’ owner says

Photo courtesy of Frank Spotorno

A hookah lounge in Astoria that shares a name with a global terrorist organization has recently made a big change.

The formerly named Isis Hookah Lounge, located at 23-52 Steinway St., began garnering media attention in 2014 when the Daily News interviewed the owner about the name’s origin. Owner Michil Gadalla, an Egyptian and Coptic Christian told the paper that he named the store after his first love and that it was not affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Passersby told the Daily News in 2014 that they were surprised and shocked to see the large white storefront sign.

“The other day I drove by here with my 16-year-old daughter and she looked at the sign and said, ‘What the f—?’ ” Mahmoud Hassan told the paper. “He picked the wrong name.”

Isis is also the name of a revered Egyptian goddess who is known as a magic healer who cured the sick and brought the dead back to life.

Now, the owners have changed the name to Rose Hookah Lounge. According to Reda Lebib, an owner of the establishment, the decision was made to attract more customers. The business is now named after the flower, he added.

“We changed the name [for] more business, more customers,” Lebib said.

Frank Spotorno, a congressional candidate for the 14th District, has been asking the owners to change their name for two years. His business, Park Avenue Elevator Designs, operates out of a building near the hookah lounge.

“Every day, as I travel to my small business in Astoria in the early morning and travel home in the evenings, I would drive by the Isis Hookah Lounge on Steinway Street and feel sorrow for the Americans killed by the terrorist group that shares the same name,” Spotorno said.

He added that he believes the owners have a right to call their business what they want but he hoped they would change the name “out of respect for our fellow Americans in San Bernardino and Orlando.”

In a previous interview, Lebib said changing the sign would be too expensive and that “all the customers, everybody understands [that it does not stand for the Islamic State].”

He also said that changing the name would be too expensive. Spotorno offered to help pay for the name change and Dan Murphy, spokesperson for the candidate, said he has committed to paying $2,000 for the sign. Lebib declined to comment on how much the new sign cost or if passersby and customers were complaining about the name.

“The owners never wanted to, or intended to support the ISIS terror group, and I didn’t want to put them out of business,” Spotorno said. “In the end the sign came down and I’m sure that the café will receive a lot of well-wishers from the neighborhood and the district.”


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