City Council debates hookah lounge ban
Students hangout and smoke hookah together Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012, at The Six Hookah Lounge and Smoke Shop. City officials plan to restrict any more hookah lounges coming into downtown East Lansing. State News File Photo
Editor’s note: Kasza’s piece in the story has been updated to accurately reflect his views on hookah lounges.
At Tuesday’s scheduled work session, the East Lansing City Council discussed a proposed ordinance that wouldn’t allow additional hookah lounges to come to East Lansing.
The proposed ordinance was brought to the council by the city staff in an effort to close an exemption from the 2010 Dr. Ron Davis Law, which bans smoking in public places.
The law banned smoking in public places, with the exception of cigar bars and specialty tobacco stores that existed the day the law went into effect. The stores and bars grandfathered in were held to restrictions such as certain sales criteria.
The proposed ordinance would close the exemption that allowed the Six Lounge Hookah & Smoke Shop, 400 Albert Ave., to transfer its exemption from Livonia to East Lansing and establish themselves in the area.
The council will be setting a date for a public hearing on the issue at next week’s regular meeting.
Mayor Pro Tem Nathan Triplett voiced support for the measure, but said anytime the council is considering an ordinance that would constrict any potential business owner from opening in East Lansing, they need to consider those proposals carefully and not take them lightly.
“I think this particular proposal is in the best interest for East Lansing, and I think it actually furthers the intended objective of the Michigan smoke-free law,” he said.
Triplett said the ordinance isn’t designed to target any existing businesses, and would not be surprised if it was met with opposition.
Council member Vic Loomis recounted one citizen’s stance on the lounges — it was better to have smokers in select indoor places than out on the sidewalk.
“If you give them a place to smoke that is out of the way of the general public … why wouldn’t we?” Loomis quoted the unnamed citizen as saying. “Are we not better off by having a controlled environment?”
Ryan McBride, the manager of the Blue Midnight Hookah Lounge, 330 Albert Ave., said he is unsure why the city wants to ban more hookah lounges.
“The hookah lounges in East Lansing have never caused any trouble,” he said.
Having more than two hookah lounges in the area isn’t necessarily bad for business, McBride said. Multiple lounges can attract additional hookah smokers.
“I would love to see more hookah lounges come to East Lansing,” he said.
But dietetics senior John Kasza said he didn’t think it would be bad if the proposed ordinance would pass because there are enough hookah lounges in East Lansing.
“I don’t think there is such a huge demand,” he said.
Triplett said he believes, like the Davis Law, this ordinance would be good for East Lansing.
“It prevents future growth of tobacco to protect public health, but it does nothing to impact hookah lounges that are in East Lansing,” he said.