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City of Columbus taking a look at regulating hookah lounges

City Council held a public hearing Tuesday afternoon to get feedback on proposed legislation on hookah lounges. (WSYX/WTTE){ }

City Council held a public hearing Tuesday afternoon to get feedback on proposed legislation on hookah lounges. Council President Zach Klein said he was approached by leaders of the local Somali community who are concerned about the hookah establishments in the city.

"Young teens are getting up in the middle of the night , going into these hookah lounges that are unregulated and spending all hours of the night there and sometimes that leads to criminal activity," said Klein.

Other big cities in the United States like Seattle have taken steps to regulate Hookah establishments. Columbus does not keep track of hookah lounges currently, but there are believed to be a couple dozen.

"So this is a safety issue.It's one where the City of Columbus can look at what other cities are doing and craft appropriate regulation that can be enforced effectively and make a difference in our community."

At Mangoes Hookah Lounge, Eddie Alammar said they serve soda, tea and coffee but no alcohol. Alammar said they check id's before anybody smokes their shishah tobacco product. "Many people come here to have a cup of coffee. They come here with their friends , a social atmosphere , we have a lot of great customers that come here that we talk to."

Alison Rinehart at High Up Hookah in the campus area said there are a lot of misconceptions about Hookah. "It doesnt make you feel like you are on drugs. That is something a lot of people are worried about.Hookah can seem very intimidating , but it is really kind of one of those more stress relieving kind of products," said Rinehart.

"This isn't culture specific . This is a quality of life and safety issue that effects every single Columbus resident within the close proximity of a hookah lounge, which regardless of race or gender or national origin could effect anyone in the city," said Klein.

More hearings are expected. About two dozen people attended the Tuesday afternoon hearing. Klein said they will want to work with the prosecutor's office, police, and health officials on any legislation.

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