City council will once again try to come to a decision about whether hookah bars will be able to operate in Fort Collins at tonight’s meeting.
It was unclear where two local hookah bars, Narghile Nights, 621 S. College Ave., and Algiers, 121 W Laurel St., fit into the city code with regard to the statewide smoking ban that was enacted in July. Council members have set out to clarify the issue, but postponed the vote twice.
“Making a change to our smoking ordinance is an important issue, and it is more important that we have done our work correctly and diligently than to reach a quick decision,” said councilman David Roy.
The council members will vote on three possible versions of the ordinance.
Option A would allow existing businesses to operate as they do now, while future businesses would be allowed to sell tobacco products but would not be able to have a lounge area for on-site smoking.
Option B would create a “level playing field” for both future and current businesses.
And Option B1 would place size restrictions on all tobacco businesses so that one could be no more than 2,500 square feet and only 700 square feet could be used for on-site smoking.
“Council members have diverse opinions on this issue. On the one hand, some members, including me, think that council has a duty to restrict the promotion of tobacco in our community, because of concern for public health,” said council member Ben Manvel. “Some members think that restricting a business which is dealing only in tobacco is not legitimate.”
Aria Khosravi, co-owner of Narghile Nights, is mainly concerned with the possibility of a size restriction.
“That is our biggest concern at this point,” he said. “As long as we have enough to where we can continue to operate I have no problems.”
Roy is in favor of grandfathering the existing businesses in, while restricting future businesses from opening.
“Grandfathering isn’t a perfect solution – it does reflect some basic fairness to the (existing) businesses, while allowing this city council to not shirk its responsibilities to the rest of this community concerning health and safety,” he said.
“I hope that the council will see fit to move forward with a law which will continue to support the healthy image of Fort Collins,” Manvel said.
The meeting is set for 6 p.m. at City Hall West, 300 LaPorte Ave.
Staff writer Rebecca Howard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.