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Ordinance banning after hours smoking lounges passes first reading

Posted at 4:10 PM, Feb 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-19 18:41:48-05

The City Council Tuesday gave its initial approval to an ordinance which would ban smoking-related businesses from operating after hours.

The Tropical Hookah Lounge on Nile near McCardle is the only business affected by this new ordinance, which prevents smoke shops, cigar bars, vaping lounges, and hookah lounges from operating between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m.

The Tropical Lounge closes at 4 a.m. two days a week, Fridays and Saturdays.  Owner Mustafa Al Zakzok estimates that he does about half his monthly business in those four extra hours a week.

This isn’t Al Zakzok’s first run-in with city government.

In October, the council passed an ordinance preventing smoking-related businesses from opening in residential neighborhoods, but the Tropical Lounge was allowed to stay under a grandfather clause.  This new ordinance doesn’t have a similar cause.

That has Al Zakzok worried about his future.

“If they do that that means I will have to shut down my business,” said Al Zakzok.  “I have 20 people who work for me, they’re going to be out of work.  That’s 20 houses that will collect unemployment as soon I shut down.”

Al Zakzok feels singled out by this ordinance, but will abide by the council’s decision.

“They want me to shut down at 2:00, I’ll shut down at 2:00,” said Al Zakzok.  “I’ll respect their rules and regulations.  I’m not going to force myself not to go with the rules they have.”

Many neighbors say they don’t like the lounge being open after 2 a.m.  They complained about noise, litter, and underage drinking in cars.  Al Zakzok says he’s worked to address neighbors’ concerns, including hiring off duty police for late nights.