Police crack down on city's hookah bars - News, Weather and Classifieds for Southern New England

Police crack down on city's hookah bars

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A hookah pipe A hookah pipe

Hookah is on the hot seat in Providence.

City police are cracking down on restaurants and bars that serve the flavored tobacco smoked through a water pipe.

Officers seized hookahs from four establishments Wednesday night, saying they are enforcing the years-old ban on smoking inside public spaces.

"Hookah is indoor smoking. So, it's illegal. We're just looking for them to end the selling of hookah," Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said.

Lebanese restaurant Opa on Federal Hill was one of the establishments police visited, taking a hookah.

"It's part of our culture," said owner Joe Karam. "Most of our customers are either Lebanese, Jewish or Arab."

Karam said word got out fast after police came in and took a hookah.

He's stopping the service for now. He said he's lost about 75 percent of his business and that he's already laid off several employees as a result.

"We're killed. Simply, we're done. The law is the law, but look at it from our side. It's a business. We've been doing it for the last five, six years," Karam said.

"If they're relying on hookah to stay in business, then perhaps they ought to look at their business model," Pare said.

Not everyone is stopping.

NBC 10 saw patrons smoking hookahs at a couple of places, including Nara on Federal Hill, which is one the establishments that police went to Wednesday.

Violators could end up in front of the city licensing board.

So why all the attention on hookah bars now?

"They started springing up all over the city the last couple of years, and there's a health problem we've come to identify. Second-hand smoke is worse actually than cigarette smoke indoors," Pare said.

An exception to the indoor smoking ban is cigar bars. But Pare said most hookah bars would not qualify for that status.

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