Milford’s first hookah lounge took a long time to open. Owner Sammer “Sam” Karout said with a smile, “It almost killed me.” After about seven years of zoning issues, court battles and lots of renovations, Karout’s Olive Tree Hookah Lounge opened Jan. 16.
Karout has owned the Olive Tree, a restaurant and grocery story offering Middle Eastern cuisine and international food items, on Bridgeport Avenue since 2008. He briefly operated the Olive Tree Hookah Lounge in 2009 before the city’s health department shut it down, citing the fact that smoking was taking place inside the business. The state health department later amended the shutdown order — twice — sort of allowing him to open, but that left Karout petitioning the Planning & Zoning Board for a special exception to reopen his doors.