Vancouver’s last two hookah lounges to be extinguished

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      The two Vancouver lounges that offer smoking through a traditional Middle Eastern water pipe called a hookah may soon be on their last gasps.

      Following the June 19 release of a court judgment on the dispute over whether or not they violate health bylaws, city hall seems determined to put them out of business once and for all.

      “We will be closing these businesses, or at least closing down that activity on their premises,” Vancouver city manager Penny Ballem told the Straight in a phone interview.

      According to Ballem, Persian Tea House on Davie Street and Ahwaz Hookah House on West Georgia Street are expected to either shut down or stop smoking activities after July 19. That’s the end of the 30-day grace period provided by a B.C. Supreme Court justice who dismissed the appeal of the hookah operators.

      Ballem said that the city has a number of legal options if the hookah operators are not compliant, including fines.

      If they’re hoping that their businesses will be grandfathered, they shouldn’t. “That won’t happen,” Ballem said.

      In 2007, Vancouver enacted a bylaw banning indoor smoking in commercial establishments but excluded hookah and cigar lounges. The following year, the city removed the exemption.

      Hamid Mohammadian of the Persian Tea House vowed to “keep going”. “This is my job. This is my little business. This is my culture. This is my heart. This is everything for me,” Mohammadian told the Straight by phone.

      The shops use a herbal substance and haven’t served tobacco for years.

      Lawyer Dean Davison represents Persian Tea House and Ahwaz Hookah House. He noted that his clients’ only hope may be that enough people will ask the city to leave the two lounges alone until they eventually disappear.

      But Davison acknowledged that even that may be tough, telling the Straight by phone: “I think the bottom line is that when it comes to smoking and things related to smoking, politicians are…comfortable…being aggressive against smoking-related products and establishments.”




      Jul 3, 2015 at 10:36am

      This makes me so incredibly frustrated. The Persian Tea House is a business that has been operating for *at least* two decades in downtown Vancouver - phased out tobacco products at the city's - and they're still being squeezed out because having a hookah business looks bad for the city? Is that what it's really about? Because I see no reason otherwise. Glad I moved away from this backwards city.


      Jul 3, 2015 at 11:27am

      It is crazy that these two business can't stay open when all around the city there are places where both smoking of pot and vaping of who-knows-what are allowing to continue (even though it is against city bylaws) while law and bylaw enforcement looks the other way.
      No one is forced to go into a hookah shop and if you do, you know what is up.
      And they aren't even smoking pot or tobacco.
      We simply do not need the City to decide what leisure or cultural activities we can take part in.