City Council failed to come to a decision on the fate of hookah bars once again, this time for another month after debating the issue at last night’s meeting.
The council has been working on a proposal to clarify the city code in regard to smoking restrictions due to the statewide smoking ban that went into effect in July.
Council members said they didn’t feel confident with the proposed ordinance.
The proposal presented at the meeting would require that any new tobacco businesses satisfy the land code, meaning that they could only use 40 percent of their floor space for on-site smoking. The proposal also would require that signs be posted with the surgeon general’s warning within the establishment and create an effective way of keeping people under the age of 18 from entering.
Fort Collins’ two existing hookah bars, Algiers and Narghile Nights, would not be required to follow the land code as long as they did not expand their business and followed all of the other requirements for a retail tobacco business.
Councilman Kurt Kastein said this exemption for the two existing hookah bars would create a business advantage over future businesses. Kastein motioned to postpone the vote so that the ordinance could be revised further.
Many community members voiced their concerns over the lack of knowledge about the health risks involved with hookah bars.
“Many students that I have talked to believe that tobacco smoked through a hookah is less harmful,” said Callie Brown, a member of CREWs, a CSU harm-reduction group.
Councilman Ben Manvel wanted to make it more difficult for tobacco businesses to open in the future. He expressed interest in lowering the amount of floor space from 40 percent to 33 percent.
“I don’t think that we want to encourage more tobacco businesses,” he said. “Forty percent is workable, (33 percent) is not.”
Aria Khosravi, co-owner of Narghile Nights, disagreed with Manvel.
“We cannot afford any space restrictions on our business,” he said. “We just want to continue our operation as we have been for the past seven months.”
Despite yet another postponement, Khosravi and co-owner Alan Blue still remain optimistic.
“Any good decision takes time,” Khosoravi said. “It will give us more time to work with the city.”
Blue added: “(Kastein) seems like he wants to make it work.”
Staff writer Rebecca Howard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.