Despite ban, Hookah Bar still smoking

Before North Carolina's ban on smoking in bars and restaurants kicked in, the owners of the Hookah Bar in downtown Asheville made their feelings quite clear.

What ban?:Several patrons at the Hookah Bar on a recent night. The owners of the bar assert they've found ways to stay open despite the state's new smoking ban. Photo by Jonathan Welch

"Only a few short days till we extend our middle finger to the N.C. Smoking Ban. The Hookah Bar will be open in 2010," read one message from the business's Twitter account. And on Jan. 2, the day the ban took effect, another tweet declared, "F the smoking ban … We are still smoking … I am right now!!"

But despite the defiant tone, co-owner J.C. Wright says the business at 64 Carver St. isn't violating the new law.

"We don't allow cigarette smoke inside, just hookahs," he explains. "Technically, we're not defying the ban: We're in compliance with the law. We are still smoking, and we're very much trying to promote that fact. Everybody was asking if we were shutting down; that's just not true. We did our homework. A lot of people are glad to see that we're still in business."

Although the ban does not specifically exempt hookah bars (as it does cigar clubs), Wright maintains that the Hookah Bar dodges the prohibition because it features tea-based "shisha" rather than tobacco products.

"Shisha is traditionally tobacco that's been dried, cut, mixed with molasses. Instead, in this process [which does not use tobacco], tea is boiled to get rid of the flavor — then it's the same process from there out," he notes. "We're looking into options that would allow us to still comply with the ban as it's written, yet still serve tobacco."

So far, there have been no legal repercussions (violating the ban can carry fines of up to $200 a day), says Wright, and in fact, the business has found the state Department of Health and Human Services "actually, strangely enough, quite cooperative in helping us find a way to still continue our operation and trying to see what requirements we had to meet to achieve that goal."

However, he adds, "We're still studying the law, seeing if there are ways to get around the ramifications and get back to serving tobacco."


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29 thoughts on “Despite ban, Hookah Bar still smoking

  1. harleyrider2009

    Note that the EPA report of 1992 on second hand smoke was tossed out as junk science by federal judge osteen.
    Followed by 2 congressional comittees with henry waxman in attendance,both comittees also tossed the epa report as junk science………yet these same smoke free and govmnt health groups continue to make claims shs/ets harms people. Sg general carmona was asked to provide some names of the dead he claimed of 50,000 deaths to shs a year……..yet he couldnt name one and he declared the number was computer generated on the sammac system……….to this date there still are no names………note this too the relative risk factor of second hand smoke is a 1.1 while tap waters is a 1.24 and milks is a 2.4 yet we dont call these things carcinogens as the epa study of 1992 tried to claim…….then when we find not one smoke free group lists the true major component in second hand smoke is water vapor and air at nearly 94%…..surgeon general report of 1989 pg 80.

    Then we have OSHA not making a rule of limits………..why because nano grams and femptograms are not going to harm anyone………what we have here is a lie and mass propaganda by health officials andnon-profits out to secure profits for big pharma elling the cessation drugs….the guilty parties are the robert woods johnson foundation aka johnson and johnson along with the american cancer society ,hired out by RWJF to lobby for smoking bans…….note also that all state wide bans include tax dollars for smoke free droups and 300-500 million dollars for purchasing and paying for quit lines and buy cessation drugs from big pharma…………This story is bigger than the global arming hype from the climategate emails………..follow the money and you will find the world health orginization is heavily financed by big pharma and lets not forget the world anti-tobacco treaty where countries were blackmaled to sign the treaty or lose world bank loans………….Even the tobacco companies had there hands tied by the MSA deal to stay shut up about anything tobacco control may say in the future……….leaving tobacco control prohibitionists the ability to make any claim they so desired and see it rubber stamped by government agencies staffed with people from the same non-profit groups…look at obamas hhs secretary or the cdc director all from tobacco control back grounds even the new surgeon general comes from tobacco control in mississippi…………….colusion you bet.

  2. I’m glad that the Hookah Bar is trying to find ways around the letter of the law.

    However, this approach accepts the premise that the state ought to violate private property rights.

    I’m sorry that the tobacco bar will not fight the spirit of the law on principle.

  3. Fight4Freedom

    I agree. It amazes me how often we (Americans) just roll over and let the government decide what is best for us. We continue to give up our rights a little bit at a time while saying, “it’s not that bad” or “it could be worse”. Bottom line, it should be our choice. There was no law restricting an establishment from becoming non-smoking without the government’s help. There also wasn’t a law that made non-smokers go to or work at smoking establishments.
    As for all of these bars and restaurants that are claiming to love this new law, why didn’t they go non-smoking on their own? The large chains are not going to be negatively affected by this, but several small businesses that have had a majority of smoking customers will be forced to close their doors now that their clientele has been made to be outcasts.
    It happened with seatbelt and helmet laws, and once smoking is conquered, who knows what right of choice will be taken away next. By the time most of the sheep in this country realize what has happened, it will be too late.
    All readers,
    I’ve started a petition to try and save our freedom of choice at:
    I’ve caught a lot of flack stating that petitions don’t work. Without any support, I can be assured that it will not. However, at least I can say that I’m trying something and not just rolling over. If you want to be a sheep and follow the herd, that is your choice. If you would like to “try” and make a difference, please take a moment to read the petition. If you agree with it, please sign it. If you don’t, don’t. That’s your choice (for now anyway).

  4. GoodGrief

    Hey…KeepAVLFreaky…how about you put together a petition to ban prayer in public places? Work on that, let me know how it goes and who signs it. Maybe if the smokers would “try to evolve” they wouldn’t do what they do and not force their beliefs, err…I mean…habits…on other people. Fire away on your petition…prayer is here to stay.

  5. Piffy!

    I agree, Fight4Freedom. We have to fight for the right to do whatever we want wherever we want, regardless of what others think, because they are fascists if they expect us to do what they want. Thats fascism. We need freedom!

  6. PatD

    yup, yup, bla, bla … it’s done, finally.

    Then there are those funny so called ‘freedom fighters’ who, I find this ironic, don’t seem to have a problem trampling on other people’s rights when they practice their little filthy habit.

  7. Fight4Freedom

    We are not asking to smoke in an establishment that chooses to be non-smoking, and we are not asking non-smokers to stay out of smoking establishments. We are asking the government to give the choice back to the business owners and their customers. I’m pretty sure that’s called free enterprise. How is that trampling on someone’s rights?

  8. What property rights of yours are being “trampled” while you are on someone else’s property?

    Do you know what a hookah is?

  9. PatD

    Since when is a smoking ban about property rights Mr. Peck?

    Nah, don’t know what a Hookah is.
    Never heard of it, never seen one.
    Don’t know what google is either.

  10. “Since when is a smoking ban about property rights?”

    Since the beginning.

    The smoking ban violates the right of private property owners to use their property as they see fit in ways that do not violate the individual rights of others. It is a violation of property rights by the coercive force of government.

    Individuals can freely choose whether or not to patronize smoking establishments but they cannot turn to the government to force their peculiar sense of morality on others. Which is what smoking ban supporters would do.

    They are cannot persuade so they impotently turn to force.

  11. “Since when is a smoking ban about property rights?”

    Since the beginning.

    The smoking ban violates the right of private property owners to use their property as they see fit in ways that do not violate the individual rights of others. It is a violation of property rights by the coercive force of government.

    Individuals can freely choose whether or not to patronize smoking establishments but they cannot turn to the government to force their peculiar sense of morality on others. Which is what smoking ban supporters would do.

    They cannot persuade so they impotently turn to the use of force.

  12. Piffy!

    I should be free to inject heroin and smoke crack in public wherever i want. it’s my RIGHT as an American!

  13. Fight4Freedom

    It sounds as if the point is being missed.

    A business is a private enterprise, and no one is making anyone go into an establishment unwillingly.

    Some people don’t go to clubs because the music is too loud, and the noise could cause hearing damage.

    Do you feel the government should step in and regulate the volume levels?

    There are lots of things that offend lots of people in this country. I’m not going to go off on tangents, but I could quickly populate a very long list. As an educated society, we should be able to respect each other, even if we don’t always agree.

    I’m not seeing anyone say that smoking should be allowed everywhere. What I am seeing said is that the government should leave the choice of smoking / non-smoking up to the owners and their customers.

    A hookah bar is built with the business model of catering to smokers. It’s pretty simple; if you don’t want to smoke or be around smoke, don’t go in.

    I occasionally DJ at a local bar on Friday nights. This has always been a small venue, with an average of 30 patrons. However, last night we did not have more than 6 customers. When I discussed the lack of clientele with the owner, he said that most of his customers smoke, and they don’t want to come out to a place where they can’t feel welcomed. The smoking ban has done just that, and he’s lost most of his regulars.

    It’s not right for the government to put an establishment out of business by driving away the clientele to which they cater.

    If you’re reading this, I’m sure you can read a sign that says “smoker-friendly” or “no smoking”. At that point, you should be able to decide if you want to enter the premises or not.

  14. PatD

    You should be free to kill or otherwise mutilate yourself whenever you want. NOT wherever you want.

    Your rights end when they infringe on mine.


    You should be able to smoke on your property whenever you want.
    However, smoking in a public place is banned, as it should, and that has nothing to do with property rights. Don’t like regulation, don’t open a public place.
    Smoking in a ‘PRIVATE’ house, place, club is NOT banned, and as it should.
    I don’t see a problem with gov regulating those matters where people simply don’t have the respect or courtesy to not harm other people. Which is what smoking is and what smokers do if not regulated.

  15. Fight4Freedom


    The problem with your comment “Smoking in a ‘PRIVATE’ house, place, club is NOT banned, and as it should.” is that most establishments cannot achieve this status.
    North Carolina’s definition of a private club reads: “Private club”. – A country club or an organization that maintains selective members, is operated by the membership, does not provide food or lodging for pay to anyone who is not a member or a member’s guest, and is either incorporated as a nonprofit corporation in accordance with Chapter 55A of the General Statutes or is exempt from federal income tax under the Internal
    Revenue Code as defined in G.S. 105-130.2(1). For the purposes of this Article, private club includes country club.

  16. “However, smoking in a public place is banned, as it should, and that has nothing to do with property rights.”


    A hookah bar is not a public place. Pritchard Park is a public place.

    A hookah bar or restaurant is private property owned by the property owner that is open to customers who wish to patronize their private business. The property owner has the right to set the rules of peaceable operation, not the government nor the busybodies who would resort to force through government interference.

    A smoking ban is a violation of the private property rights of the hookah bar or restaurant’s owner.

  17. Ken Hanke

    It’s really very simple. If you don’t want to go into an establishment that allows smoking (and why would you be going into a hookah bar if that’s the case?), don’t go there. OK, sure, if you’re talking about some place you have to go — like a government office — that’s one thing. But there are lots of places I don’t go simply based on choice — including hookah bars — and I don’t see the need for government intervention.

  18. PatD

    Just to put things straight, I was only reacting to some previous comments on the smoking ban. Smoking tobacco in public places that is.
    Smoking a Hookah, in a Hookah bar, is totally ok with me. It is clearly, well … a Hookah Bar and I have the choice to go there or not.

    The smoking ban is good for the general public but it’s main goal is to protect workers. At least that’s why and how it happened in Massachusetts many years ago.

    The moronic comment I read in this thread, stating there is no law that makes you work in a smoking place is, well…. just idiotic.

    Not long ago, when people were dying by the thousands in unsafe and unhealthy workplaces, there were also no laws forcing some poor schmuck to work there. Now, a 100 years later, thanks to regulation, things have changed for the better and I don’t hear Tim complain about that. Or are you Mr. Peck?

  19. Fight4Freedom

    The three-hour delay makes it very difficult to keep a steady trail going on this site.


    Thanks! I appreciate your reference to my comment being moronic and idiotic… and smokers are the ones with no respect…lol

    I still stand by my point. Every industry, profession, and trade has risks (even staring at a computer monitor all day). We still have the choice to pick the type of career that we want to enter. If smoke is something you hate, you shouldn’t pick a career where you will be exposed to it. There are way to many options available for individuals to gain knowledge and study a career of their choice to say that they are being FORCED to work around smoke.

    Even if I agreed with you, wouldn’t measuring and setting standards for indoor air quality be the answer? There are a lot more contaminants in the air that we breathe than just tobacco smoke.

  20. “The moronic comment I read in this thread, stating there is no law that makes you work in a smoking place is, well…. just idiotic.”

    Is there a law that forces people to work at the Hookah Bar, or anywhere else, involuntarily?

  21. PatD

    Even if I agreed with you, wouldn’t measuring and setting standards for indoor air quality be the answer?

    You mean, as in the “government” setting standards and actually controlling stuff?


  22. PatD

    Even if I agreed with you, wouldn’t measuring and setting standards for indoor air quality be the answer?

    You mean, as in the “government” setting standards and actually controlling stuff?


  23. PatD

    Even if I agreed with you, wouldn’t measuring and setting standards for indoor air quality be the answer?

    You mean, as in the “government” setting standards and actually controlling stuff?


  24. PatD

    Even if I agreed with you, wouldn’t measuring and setting standards for indoor air quality be the answer?

    You mean, as in the “government” setting standards and actually controlling stuff?


  25. PatD

    No Tim. There is no law forcing anyone to work at any place.
    So, because there is no law forcing someone to work at a given unhealthy place, that makes it ok?
    Is that your point?

  26. Pat,
    Oh, you got me…. not, but keep trying.
    : )
    Unless you are an air quality professional (and you very well might be), the standards would need to be set as a reference so the average person could make sense of the measurements (is 20ppm of CO a level that you would choose to be exposed to?). Again, this would be to help YOU make an educated decision, not the government.
    That’s kind of off topic though. I guess that’s what happens when you don’t have a good rebuttal.
    The removal of our right of personal choice associated with NC’s smoking BAN is what we were discussing, and whether an individual had a CHOICE to work in a smoking environment (remember, my “moronic” and “idiotic” comment). I know I had a choice, until it was taken away (in my best interest, of course). Now I’m home early on a Sat night, because the “private club” pub I was working in didn’t have enough customers to keep me past midnight. I bet you’ll be changing your views when the government takes away a right that directly affects you.

  27. harleyrider2009


    Though repetition has little to do with “the truth,” we’re repeatedly told that there’s “no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.”

    OSHA begs to differ.

    OSHA has established PELs (Permissible Exposure Levels) for all the measurable chemicals, including the 40 alleged carcinogens, in secondhand smoke. PELs are levels of exposure for an 8-hour workday from which, according to OSHA, no harm will result.

    Of course the idea of “thousands of chemicals” can itself sound spooky. Perhaps it would help to note that coffee contains over 1000 chemicals, 19 of which are known to be rat carcinogens.
    -“Rodent Carcinogens: Setting Priorities” Gold Et Al., Science, 258: 261-65 (1992)

    There. Feel better?

    As for secondhand smoke in the air, OSHA has stated outright that:

    Indeed it would.

    Independent health researchers have done the chemistry and the math to prove how very very rare that would be.

    As you’re about to see in a moment.

    In 1999, comments were solicited by the government from an independent Public and Health Policy Research group, Littlewood & Fennel of Austin, Tx, on the subject of secondhand smoke.

    Using EPA figures on the emissions per cigarette of everything measurable in secondhand smoke, they compared them to OSHA’s PELs.

    The following excerpt and chart are directly from their report and their Washington testimony:


    “We have taken the substances for which measurements have actually been obtained–very few, of course, because it’s difficult to even find these chemicals in diffuse and diluted ETS.

    “We posit a sealed, unventilated enclosure that is 20 feet square with a 9 foot ceiling clearance.

    “Taking the figures for ETS yields per cigarette directly from the EPA, we calculated the number of cigarettes that would be required to reach the lowest published “danger” threshold for each of these substances. The results are actually quite amusing. In fact, it is difficult to imagine a situation where these threshold limits could be realized.

    “Our chart (Table 1) illustrates each of these substances, but let me report some notable examples.

    “For Benzo[a]pyrene, 222,000 cigarettes would be required to reach the lowest published “danger” threshold.

    “For Acetone, 118,000 cigarettes would be required.

    “Toluene would require 50,000 packs of simultaneously smoldering cigarettes.

    “At the lower end of the scale– in the case of Acetaldehyde or Hydrazine, more than 14,000 smokers would need to light up simultaneously in our little room to reach the threshold at which they might begin to pose a danger.

    “For Hydroquinone, “only” 1250 cigarettes are required. Perhaps we could post a notice limiting this 20-foot square room to 300 rather tightly-packed people smoking no more than 62 packs per hour?

    “Of course the moment we introduce real world factors to the room — a door, an open window or two, or a healthy level of mechanical air exchange (remember, the room we’ve been talking about is sealed) achieving these levels becomes even more implausible.

    “It becomes increasingly clear to us that ETS is a political, rather than scientific, scapegoat.”

    Chart (Table 1)

    -“Toxic Toxicology” Littlewood & Fennel

    Coming at OSHA from quite a different angle is litigator (and how!) John Banzhaf, founder and president of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).

    Banzhaf is on record as wanting to remove healthy children from intact homes if one of their family smokes. He also favors national smoking bans both indoors and out throughout America, and has litigation kits for sale on how to get your landlord to evict your smoking neighbors.

    Banzhaf originally wanted OSHA to ban smoking in all American workplaces.

    It’s not even that OSHA wasn’t happy to play along; it’s just that–darn it — they couldn’t find the real-world science to make it credible.

    So Banzhaf sued them. Suing federal agencies to get them to do what you want is, alas, a new trick in the political deck of cards. But OSHA, at least apparently, hung tough.

    In response to Banzhaf’s law suit they said the best they could do would be to set some official standards for permissible levels of smoking in the workplace.

    Scaring Banzhaf, and Glantz and the rest of them to death.

    Permissible levels? No, no. That would mean that OSHA, officially, said that smoking was permitted. That in fact, there were levels (hard to exceed, as we hope we’ve already shown) that were generally safe.

    This so frightened Banzhaf that he dropped the case. Here are excerpts from his press release:

    “ASH has agreed to dismiss its lawsuit against OSHA…to avoid serious harm to the non-smokers rights movement from adverse action OSHA had threatened to take if forced by the suit to do it….developing some hypothetical [ASH’s characterization] measurement of smoke pollution that might be a better remedy than prohibiting smoking….[T]his could seriously hurt efforts to pass non-smokers’ rights legislation at the state and local level…

    Another major threat was that, if the agency were forced by ASH’s suit to promulgate a rule regulating workplace smoking, [it] would be likely to pass a weak one…. This weak rule in turn could preempt future and possibly even existing non-smokers rights laws– a risk no one was willing to take.

    As a result of ASH’s dismissal of the suit, OSHA will now withdraw its rule-making proceedings but will do so without using any of the damaging [to Anti activists] language they had threatened to include.”
    -ASH Nixes OSHA Suit To Prevent Harm To Movement

    Looking on the bright side, Banzhaf concludes:

    “We might now be even more successful in persuading states and localities to ban smoking on their own, once they no longer have OSHA rule-making to hide behind.”

    Once again, the Anti-Smoking Movement reveals that it’s true motive is basically Prohibition (stopping smokers from smoking; making them “social outcasts”) –not “safe air.”

    And the attitude seems to be, as Stanton Glantz says, if the science doesn’t “help” you, don’t do the science.

    The fact that the cigarette is not completely consumed (ash is produced) and that the combustion is incomplete will reduce the amounts of CO2 and H2O produced, but nonetheless, it must be kept in mind that CO2 and H2O will always be the dominant constituents in the cigarette smoke.

  28. DebateTeam1

    I really am disappointed at how willing of a society we have become to allow our individual freedoms and property rights to be trampled on. This is not really an issue about smoking. Smoking is bad for us, we all know it, and most people, even smokers, aren’t all that keen on being in a smoke filled room. I know- I smoked for 10 years but quit 15 years ago. So lets stop debating if smoking is bad for us. It is. Let’s move on.

    The issue at hand is our rights as citizens to use our personal property as we see fit. Before the ban, some bar owners allowed smoking in their privately owned bars. I exercised my right not to go there, just as I do now with regards to the Hookah bar. The bar owner is happy with this arrangement and so am I. I also don’t go to concerts of rock bands because it hurts my ears but never would it occur to be to force any of the fine establishments that cater to those that enjoy loud music to turn down the volume. We don’t need a law for me to exercise this freedom.

    The bar is a private establishment and the owner and his patrons can decide what they want or don’t want. If the volume can go to 11 then it should. If they want to smoke that is ok too. Just without me. I will go elsewhere.

    Workers at the hookar bar, local bars, nightclubs, and other venues where something that might not be good for us made a choice. They could go to work at other venues where their skills are just as applicable but without the element that is potentially harmful. I have worked in the hospitality industry, and I find it hard to believe those workers feel forced to work in the environment in which they are employed. There are plenty of nice, well attended bars that didn’t allow smoking before the ban that could have provided them employment.

    Every time we give up a little bit of our freedoms it becomes a little easier for government to demand we do other things (or not do them as the case may be). I am sure all the proponents of this ban are delighted, but what about the small business owners affected and their workers? I would venture to say that the ban has not caused non-smoking people to go out more than before to make up for lost revenue, just maybe to some places they had not been before. But the smokers won’t go out at as much or stay for as long. The net result will be a negative economic impact for those businesses and a negative impact on our ability to make our own choices. If proponents of this law think they are safer, think again.

    I hate smoking but I hate this law even more.

    What is next, trans fats? Then what? When does it stop?

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