Hookah lounge shut down for smoking ban violations
EVERETT - A little known hookah bar downtown was shut down last month by the Snohomish Health District.
The health district took the Hideout Hookah Lounge on Wetmore Avenue to court for a year’s worth of indoor smoking ban violations. A judge decided in the district’s favor, fining Hideout’s owners $89,100.
A hookah is a waterpipe used to smoke tobacco. It originated in India and the Middle East and is gaining popularity in the U.S. Hookah is becoming an increasing trend among teenagers, state Healthy Youth Surveys show.
Snohomish Health District health officer Dr. Gary Goldbaum said the decision should make it clear hookah lounges are not allowed.
“Hookah tobacco may smell sweet and be cheaper than cigarettes, but it is no less harmful or addictive,”Goldbaum said.
Hideout let adults smoke hookah in a nightclub setting with a $5 membership card. Teenagers and people in their 20s were Hideout’s biggest customers. The business generated $180,000 in revenue last year, court documents show.
The lounge was located inside a building at 2701 Wetmore Ave. shared by the Refuge Church upstairs. The church’s pastor said smoke seeped through walls and permeated the air of the church sanctuary.
Hideout’s owners argued their employees — a group of their friends — were volunteers. They also argued the smoking ban didn’t apply because the “membership card” made the lounge a private club.
The lounge didn’t advertise outside its Facebook page, which has since been taken down.
People working inside any for-profit establishment, volunteer or not, cannot be exposed to secondhand smoke and the lounge was open to the public, the health district argued.
Health district compliance inspectors visited the Hideout 14 times and warned owners multiple times they were violating the law.
The health district filed a civil lawsuit last June in Snohomish County Superior Court.
“One thing that really comes out (from the decision) is the state Department of Health is clear and we are clear that indoor smoking is illegal,” health district spokeswoman Kristin Kinnamon said. “This case is being watched across the state.”
Voters approved an indoor smoking ban in all public places in 2005. Before then, people could smoke in such places as restaurants, bars and bowling alleys. Until 1985, smoking was allowed almost everywhere else in public.
There are numerous hookah lounges in Western Washington, but the Hideout was the only one the health district knew about in Snohomish County. Health authorities statewide have shut down many of these lounges.
Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Millie M. Judge fined Hideout’s owners a cumulative $89,100 on three counts.
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