Monday, May 19, 2008

Hookah Lounge

Sunday I found out through a member of my church that a public hearing was taking place to allow a Hookah lounge to operate across the street from Tempe High School, just down the block from where we live. It's item number 3 on the May 20th agenda.

The letter I wrote to the mayor, Tempe City Council, and those running in tomorrow's election is below (unfortunately I spelled Joel Navarro's name wrong and he didn't get it). Hut Hutson and Julie Jakubek actually responded back, funny since they are actually running tomorrow. Hut, the only incumbent running, promised he would look into it. I hope he does.

Dear esteemed Mayor, Tempe City Council, and those running for City Council:

I am a concerned resident in the city of Tempe in the neighborhood between Mill Avenue and the railroad tracks south of Alameda Dr. Our family has two young children, ages three and five and attend church with families who also live in the surrounding neighborhoods some of whom have children attending Tempe High.

It has come to my attention that the business HB is applying for a permit to operate a Hookah Lounge in the Walgreen's shopping center across the street from Tempe High school. The business also intends to extend operations from 3pm to 2am, opening its business just as the Tempe High School will be releasing its students from classes.

I am concerned because I frequent this shopping center often. The corner restaurant, El Penasco, is a local favorite for our family, and we sometimes walk their to frequent it and other businesses in the plaza.

About four years ago, we were looking to buy a house in the area. We did not want to follow the trend of many of my friends who were buying brand new houses on the outskirts of town. We chose Tempe because we love Tempe. We bought an old house in an old neighborhood because we liked the amenities of the city. However, one of the distinct disadvantages of being in this part of the city for us is the number of tobacco type shops close by. There are three, including this one that we could literally walk to from our house.

Much more important, having such a shop right across the street from a high school is a direct violation of city law. And for them to operate such a shop at 3pm so close to the hours of operation of a high school just violates common sense. I do understand the shop was operating before the city law to ban such establishments was in place, but the law was passed for a reason, and common sense needs to dictate in this case.

I strongly urge all on this list who have the power to limit operations of such establishments to locations not near our schools, and they especially should not be allowed to open as students are walking nearby.

One final note, I am a concerned and informed Tempe resident. I have researched those running for city council this Tuesday and I am planning to vote. I am generally excited at the direction Tempe is currently going, but I definitely want to see neighborhoods like mine looked after to ensure a safe, family friendly environment for all who reside here.

I appreciate your time on this matter.


I was not able to attend the meeting that happened today at 1:30pm, but I did get an update from Ben Arrendondo, one of the councilman I e-mailed. His staff member called me personally and told me the request was approved and gave me a little more background:

HB, the company in question, opened its establishment in 2006 before the city ordinance was passed.

Local neighborhood residents complained to the city about this establishment being literally across the street from Tempe High school, and as a result of their complaint, they got the city to pass an ordinance prohibiting the sale of tobacco within so many yards of a school.

HB was able to remain open in their current location as long as they only sold tobacco products, not smoke them. Well, they've been smoking before the ordinance and since, and recently found to be in violation. Today they submitted a request to get an allowance for smoking. It was approved because they were able to show they were that type of establishment even before the city ordinance was passed.

The lady who called me was not aware of the change in the time they would be open, but I'm supposed to get a call back tomorrow.

I now have fourteen days to appeal the approval if I'm so inclinded. I'm currently in contact of my neighbors to assess their feelings.

I appreciate the comments in the post about Hookah lounges in general. However, I do feel that repetitive exposure to certain products has an effect on behavior. I think this is why businesses blast commercials at us constantly trying to get us to partake in their product. Its why tobacco companies can no longer advertise on television. Tobacco is an incredibly addictive and harmful substance. High school kids are not mature enough to really make good decisions about tobacco largely. I know many people now addicted to tobacco all because of stupid decisions made in high school.

I do not feel there's anything we can do about the Hookah lounge now, but I'm hoping a compromise decision can be reached. Where they at least are not allowed to open business until 7pm.


Julie said...

Zoning restrictions may keep it out, but I just wanted to allay your fears a bit just in case the lounge does go in. There are many, many hookah lounges in my neighborhood and my kids don't even notice, nor do I, (although when I see them smoking through the open windows it does remind me of the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland). Hope that helps.

Julie said...

Also, the many hookah lounges and the many, many, many bars that proliferate in my neighborhood still don't keep it from being family friendly. I feel like the 'hood's becoming rather too choked with strollers actually.

Anonymous said...

Scott, have you ever been to a hookah lounge? I admit, the hookah does look a little imtimadating to people who have never seen one before, however, it's really just a middle eastern cafe, with a totaly cafe feel. I liked what wikapedia said about such places- Hookah lounges are mostly found in college towns and urban areas and are regarded by some as a novel and chic way to socialize and embrace multiculturalism.[1]Some people of Middle Eastern or Indian extraction consider them a continuation of their own cultural traditions. Orthodox Muslims and other people who do not consume alcoholic beverages may prefer hookah lounges to taverns and bars where alcohol consumption is the primary focus.[2]

A hookah and a variety of tobacco products are on display in a Harvard Square store window in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States.Often, hookah lounges are owned and operated by people from the Muslim world or other regions where use of the hookah is a centuries-old tradition. Some offer Middle Eastern cuisine menu items. Almost all offer what most Westerners call Turkish coffee. Many hookah lounges incorporate such elements as Islamic decor and Arabic music or Indian music.[3][4]

An elderly patron of an establishent in Turkey describes the advantages of the hookah lounge as follows:

"Smoking a hooka is nothing like smoking a cigarette...cigarettes are for nervous people, competitive people, people on the run...when you smoke a hooka, you have time to think. It teaches you patience and tolerance, and gives you an appreciation of good company." [5]

So, actually, hookah lounges are even more wholesome than a bar, or a resturant with a bar. I suggest you go visit one one do a little research before you past such harsh judgment on them.


tempe turley said...


There's a city ordinance that you can't have a tobacco establishment right by a school. And it is right by the local high school. They also want to extend the hours of operation to open just as the school is letting its students out.

I just don't think that's appropriate. Just as I don't think it would be appropriate to have a bar right next to a high school.

Writermama said...

I would love to hear more about how Tempe is becoming less child friendly, due to the fact that the general population is aging, if that's the case. In the NY Times, I read recently that in Pittsburgh last year there were more deaths than births and that schools are closing. I find these kind of demographic trends really fascinating.