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.”