By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — The council unanimously passed a new ordinance allowing only hookah lounges with a state exemption to conduct business in the city.
This move comes after the six-month moratorium set last August was set to expire on Feb.12 banning new smoking establishments from opening in the city.
With the new ordinance businesses that want to continue serving food and hookah in the same building will have to obtain the state exemption and a city approved license. If they cannot, they can serve only food with a food license.
City licenses must be renewed each year. The fee to acquire the license will be set by the council at an upcoming council meeting. The city also will conduct random city inspections to make sure facilities are following the ordinance.
The council hopes the new ordinance will make it fair for the businesses that spent money remodeling their facilities to meet state guidelines, and give the city more enforcement on the hookah lounges operating illegally without licenses or state exemptions.
“This new ordinance will now level the playing field for those who have followed the law,” Councilman Michael Sarenini said.
The new ordinance is modeled after the state law and from ordinances of other cities.
In 2010, the State of Michigan implemented the Dr. Ron Davis Smoke Free Air Law which bans smoking in all public places, worksites, bars, restaurants, hospitals, hotels, shopping malls, cafes, hookah bars and bowling alleys.
The same year, the state granted 265 exemptions with 15 of them awarded to businesses in Dearborn.
The state-issued exemptions assigned to smoking lounges will stay capped at 15, and any business wishing to transfer a state exemption into the city must petition the council for permission.
Hookah lounges open before the 2010 law was put in place will be protected by the new city ordinance but those opened after will have to acquire a state exemption and a city license.
Some businesses claimed that their hookah products were herbal to avoid obtaining a state exemption, for which the council is still discussing a solution.
Location requirements will also be enforced in the ordinance. Hookah lounges cannot be within 1,200 feet of each other and have to be at least 700 feet away from of schools, childcare facilities or parks to avoid negatively impacting the health of residents or surrounding neighborhoods.
Individuals will have to provide identification to prove they are 18 years of age or older before entering all hookah lounges.
“Many parents have come to me worried about underage consumption of tobacco at the hookah lounges,” Council President Susan Dabaja said.
Businesses must also post a sign near their entrance stating “No one under the age of 18 allowed.”
Violation of the ordinance will result in a misdemeanor with a maximum of a $500 fine and 93 days imprisonment.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)