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Smoked out! Ridge board votes for crackdown on hookah bars

The Brooklyn Paper
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Bay Ridge civic leaders are demanding that the city douse the neighborhood’s allegedly burdensome hookah bars and cafes.

Opponents say that the Arab-influenced hangout spots create a health hazard for patrons; are attracting teenagers who should be in smoke-free environments; and are causing a nuisance for nearby residents, who are forced to endure a sickly sweet smog produced by the water pipes, which have cultural significance in the Arab world.

“It’s hooking kids and wasting their time,” said Habib Joudeh, a member of Community Board 10 and board member with the Arab American Association on Fifth and Ovington Avenues, whose members have been complaining about the secondhand smoke produced by Ramala Coffee Shop, a neighboring hookah lounge. “God only knows what they are loading in these things.”

No deity need be evoked: Hookah bar owners say that their smokeable mix, called shisha, consists of dried fruits, molasses, honey and sometimes tobacco.

After some local complaints, the community board voted unanimously last week for a series of measures that members hope will lead to more regulation at hookahs bars, and the creation of a protocol to better enforce and perform testing at existing bars.

The city’s landmark Smoke-Free Air Act does cover hookah bars — if there’s tobacco in the pipes. But the Health Department conceded that it rarely undertakes tobacco testing because it is expensive.

“The Health Department responds to complaints regarding these establishments in the same way as with all other food-service establishm­ents,” said a spokeswoman. “If they are found in violation of the Smoke-Free Air Act, they may be issued violations and suspension or revocation of their permit.”

A manager at Your House café and hookah lounge at Fourth Avenue and 69th Street said the business makes every effort to eliminate secondhand smoke, pointing to a ventilator that carries the cloud “three stories” up.

“All the people around here are our friends,” he said. “We’ve never received any complaints from our neighbors.”

The manager, who refused to give his name, claimed the smokeable material is “flavored tobacco — with no nicotine.” The city last year passed legislation banning the sale of flavored tobacco products — but tobacco used in pipes and hookahs was exempted.

Your House offers shisha in a tasty array of flavors, including mint, watermelon, strawberry, pineapple, and apple.

Officials admitted that they are unsure what action to take, but Joudeh, the Community Board 10 member, demanded a new Prohibition.

“[The city should] take out the hookahs in the cafes and lounges and [the bars can] have games people can play if they want to waste their time,” he said.

— with Ben Kochman

Updated 5:18 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

John from East Williamsburg says:
Smoking is smoking. No smoking means no smoking.

It is outrageous to exempt certain types of settings because of "cultural" reasons. Standing around in a dive bar drinking PBRs and smoking Marlboros is no more or less cultural - - it's just different.

I am in favor of a COMPLETE ban of smoking in all workplaces. Bars, both hookah bars and hooker bars, are workplaces (unless they're self-serve automats).
May 25, 2010, 9:20 am
Allah Ramadahn from Bay Ridge says:
What? Now where are me and the other arab guys gonna smoke our hash?!
May 25, 2010, 11:16 am
John from East Williamsburg says:
I didn't know Libby's made smoked hash. I usually just get the plain corned-beef kind.
May 25, 2010, 1:19 pm
Liza from Bay Ridge says:
This is racism. They do not load "god knows what else" in those hookahs - I know because I tried!
They should ban the mafioso Cigar bar on third ave by Starbucks!!! I walk past to go to work at 9 AM and the sidewalk reeks of cigars. No one is complaining about that.
May 25, 2010, 1:32 pm
John from East Williamsburg says:
You should be banned from walking past there as well.
May 25, 2010, 2:02 pm
Jane from Bay ridge says:
All kinds of smoking should be banned unless the shop has a special permit. The cigar bar must certainly have gotten special permission to allow smoking. Personally, I think that cigars are gross, but I must say that shop never smells when I walk by it.
For my sake you could close both of them - though I think that Liza is going a bit overboard when she claims racism. Hookah smoking is not a race, and I think that there really aren't racial tenstions in Bay Ridge at all.
May 26, 2010, 5:45 am
Paul@buyhookah.com says:
I am a big fan of hookah and I am a cigar smoker myself. I think that banning hookah bars is ridiculous and that they should be allowed to serve their products so long as they follow all regulations on tobacco. Nobody under 18 et cetera. Hookahs are meant for smoking tobacco and thus contain nicotine. It's nothing too abstract to think that responsible adults should be able to enjoy an indulgence in an establishment devoted to it without being harped on for corrupting the air and befouling the earth. If you want to ban tobacco in all forms (regardless of the differences) for it's health risks then alcohol should be next. Alcohol causes more deaths each year in non-users than tobacco ever will.

I have blog where I review hookah products and write articles about hookah related issues. It's over at http://www.buyhookah.com. Check it out.
May 26, 2010, 3:18 pm
paul@buyhookah.com from paul@buyhookah.com says:
I am a big fan of hookah and I am a cigar smoker myself. I think that banning hookah bars is ridiculous and that they should be allowed to serve their products so long as they follow all regulations on tobacco. Nobody under 18 et cetera. Hookahs are meant for smoking tobacco and thus contain nicotine. It's nothing too abstract to think that responsible adults should be able to enjoy an indulgence in an establishment devoted to it without being harped on for corrupting the air and befouling the earth. If you want to ban tobacco in all forms (regardless of the differences) for it's health risks then alcohol should be next. Alcohol causes more deaths each year in non-users than tobacco ever will.

I have blog where I review hookah products and write articles about hookah related issues. It's over at http://www.buyhookah.com. Check it out.
May 26, 2010, 3:31 pm
paul@buyhookah.com from paul@buyhookah.com says:
Whoops. I didn't mean to double post this. Sorry guys.
May 26, 2010, 3:31 pm
Scott from Flatbush says:
The Smoking Law is simple... if the primary source of your income is from Tobacco You're allowed to smoke on premises, therefore smoking in Hookah Bars and a Cigar Shops is allowed. And by the way they're not Hooking Kids" if they're serving to 18 year olds, 18 is a legal adult.
May 27, 2010, 9:07 pm
Frank from Bay Ridge says:
John from East Williamsburg says: "Smoking is smoking. No smoking means no smoking. It is outrageous to exempt certain types of settings because of "cultural" reasons."
---------------------------

Either you haven't read the law or you think that you can personally redefine it -- because NYC law says that smoking = "inhaling, exhaling, burning or carrying any lighted cigar, cigarette, pipe, or any form of lighted object or device WHICH CONTAINS TOBACCO."

The flavored-tobacco exemption isn't just for " 'cultural' reasons": It applies to just-plain-pipes as well as hookahs, since kids are least likely to bother with those (whereas kids *were* loading up on candy-sweet mini-cigars).
Even w/o that exemption, the hookah places would be legal as long as they didn't use tobacco. That's the law.
May 28, 2010, 11:04 am
jaqulyn from Park Slope says:
Look, if these old araba guys want to get together and smoke a dooby, let them. It's not like we don't all do that in the privacy of our own homes.
They're stoners - you're hard as stone, don't make them moan, just leave them alone.

They have gone through so much to pursue their dream of running a smelly bar that no one likes in an otherwise nice neighborhood. I mean, isn't that enough? Without theese hookah bars, how else would they launder their money?
June 1, 2010, 8:07 am
Smoked out from Bayridge says:
As a resident near the Your House Cafe, I can tell you its not about what they are doing inside that is upsetting their neighbors, its about the smoke wafting down the street from their wide open doors from 10am to past 1am. Its about that pipe that "pipes the smoke up 3 stories" INTO MY APARTMENT WINDOWS". It about being forced to inhale this toxic and cancer causing smoke because someone else has made the choice to. If the owner of that cafe really thinks the residents around his business are his "friends" he would have more consideration for their health and rights. If his business is legal, I don't care what they do inside... the problem is they are not keeping it INSIDE.
June 25, 2010, 9:18 pm
Disgusted Neighbor from Bay Ridge says:
Great, another one is opening up on 68th and 4th. These drug shacks are taking over what was once a nice, peaceful neighborhood. Now we have high-school dropouts and those who call themselves "Latin Kings" shouting and screaming like inbred animals.

The bar next to Bay Mart, I'm assuming Your Cancer, creates such a stench around the area that I can't stand walking within a 200 feet radius.
Sept. 15, 2010, 4:27 pm

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