By BOB OLIVER
DEARBORN — Managers at hookah cafes in the city have differing opinions on the temporary ban on new smoking lounges opening in the city.
The City Council voted 5-2 to pass a 180-day moratorium on smoking facilities in the city at their Aug. 12 meeting.
Council President Susan Dabaja and Councilman Michael Sareini voted against the item.
The moratorium will stop the opening of any new smoking facilities in the city until 2015 at the earliest.
Mahdy El-Mahmoud, manager of 360 Lounge, 13901 Michigan Ave. said management and employees are hoping that the ban remains on future establishments and not ones already open and established.
He also said the city should support the licensed businesses because they are popular and offer a safer option for people who want to go out and socialize but don’t feel comfortable at a bar or don’t drink because of their religious beliefs.
“Hookah lounges are an open environment for socializing or relaxing,” El-Mahmoud said. “They are a place for people to meet that don’t want to hang out in the bars and clubs. It’s a completely different environment and offers an alternative for people to meet in a nice, quiet setting.”
Mark Hak, manager of Adonis Restaurant, 4853 Schaefer, said he hopes the move by the city doesn’t kill business.
“I don’t understand why the city would do this in an economy that is trying to grow again,” Hak said. “The city should be doing something for the economy and businesses, not trying to hurt them.”
Alex Homaiean, manager of Vanilla Lounge, 16351 Ford Road, took the opposite view and said the temporary ban will be good for established businesses because it “makes them more exclusive.”
“I’m a firm believer that too much of anything is overkill,” Homaiean said. “When we opened about three years ago there were maybe five or six smoking lounges in the city and now they are everywhere. I think it’s good for the city, you don’t want Dearborn to look like one big hookah lounge.”
He said he hopes the city removes any unlicensed smoking facilities because they negatively impact legal businesses.
“It’s not cool to have competition (from unlicensed lounges) because we as a licensed business have worked hard to build up our customer base and spent money for proper licensing,” Homaiean said. “The city should go after them.”
City officials have been working to determine the best way to incorporate smoking facilities in the city plan and Corporation Counsel Debra Walling said the six months will give the city time keep number of facilities stationary while the research is done.
Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. said there are 15 smoking facilities in the city that are licensed and possibly several more that are operating without proper licensing.
There is a 300-smoking-facility limit in Michigan.
(Bob Oliver can be reached at [email protected])