North Carolina - some hookah bars owners stay open after smoking ban begins..

January 4, 2010 - The new law that went into effect on January 2, 2010 prohibits smoking in bars and restaurants, does not allow hookah (argileh nargile, hubble-bubble, water pipe, hooka, shisha, goza, meassel, sheesha) bars to continue to operate.

Adam Bliss, owner of Hookah Bliss on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, said this week that the business will stay open and possibly go to court over the smoking ban if it is fined. "We're going to stay open long enough to get a ticket," he said. "We're going to fight them in court."

The business specializes in hookahs, which are water pipes used for smoking tobacco, and serves beer. It has been open for about two and half years at 418 W. Franklin St. in Chapel Hill.

Hookah bars were not included in the exemptions that were granted to cigar bars under the smoking ban law. Cigar bars were defined as businesses that generate at least 60 percent of their quarterly revenues from the sale of alcoholic beverages and at least 25 percent of revenues from the sale of cigars. The law also exempts tobacco shops, which are defined as businesses that receive at least 75 percent of their annual revenues from the sale of tobacco and tobacco-related products and does not serve food or alcohol.

The "Act to Prohibit Smoking in Certain Public Places and Certain Places of Employment" was passed by the N.C. General Assembly and signed by Gov. Beverly Perdue in May.

Bliss said his business might have to stop selling beer and be defined as a tobacco shop as a result. "Which makes you wonder whether this law was really about tobacco or alcohol," he bristled. Bliss also raised issue with the stated intent of the law, which was to "protect the health of individuals in public places and places of employment ... from the risks related to secondhand smoke," as written in the legislation.

"The reason they wrote this bill, they claim, is that it protects the employees from secondhand smoke. This is an employee health issue, according to the legislature," Bliss said. "But they automatically exempted four different types of places, and notice all those places are where the rich older males go, where the legislators are more likely to go. They're all places that the rich like to smoke and they're saying that the employees that work in the places where they like to smoke do not deserve the protection that the average employee who works in an average bar deserves."

Businesses that allow smoking are given two written warnings. On the third infraction, a business can be fined up to $200.

Hookah Bliss plans on having a party as the ban goes into effect throughout the state. "This is not so much about a lawsuit as about fighting a ticket on the grounds that the law is unfair," Bliss said. "We are not going to stop serving and we are not closed."

In Wilmington, NC little has changed at the Juggling Gypsy Cafe and Hookah bar in since the start of the smoking ban in North Carolina Saturday. Patrons continue to smoke. However, this is not an act of civil disobedience. Bar manager Denny Best says bar management has found what it believes to be a loophole in the new ban, allowing customers to continue to smoke tobacco through the water pipes. At one time, Wilmington had about 20% of the hookah business in all of North Carolina.

Reference: Hookah Bliss 'to stay open' Court fight vowed; cut out of cigar bar exemptions by Monica Chen (, The Herald Sun, 1/4/2010; Wilmington hookah bar defies smoking ban with "reality show", Reported by Kristy Ondo, Posted by Scott Saxton, WTOC-11, 1/4/2010.

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