Hookah Lounge Raises Questions for Licensing Commission

A request to grant further licenses to Checkers Trans Group Boston, doing business as Boston Hookah Lounge, has prompted the city Licensing Commission to hold off until they can get further information regarding smoking regulations.

A couple of weeks ago commissioners heard from attorney Richard Villiotte, representing Samira Ahmed, owner and manager of the business. The lounge, intended for those over 18, has already received approval from the Board of Health. It came before the Licensing Commission to seek a common victualler and entertainment license. Villiotte said his client would like to serve tea and coffee, as well as pre-packaged snacks. As Villiotte explained, Ahmed already has his excise tax license from the Department of Revenue. The stipulation on the license is that 51 percent of his income has to come from the sale of tobacco or tobacco-related materials.

The concern for the commissioners is the 2004 smoking regulations passed by the Revere Board of Health, as well as the current state regulations. The commission is now seeking clarification of the regulations and an opinion from the city solicitor.

“I’m perplexed,” said Commissioner Linda Guinasso. “There’s no smoking in the city if food is prepared, no smoking in apartments. Even Fenway Park has banned tobacco.”

Villiotte said a hookah bar is a place for cultural gatherings and is part of the Middle Eastern history.

Guinasso said she was unsure where to go with request. She wondered if the city council or the Board of Health should be involved.

Commission Chairman Joseph Quarantello was absent from the meeting.

“This is a growing phenomenon simply because of Middle Eastern and Arabic culture,” Villiotte said.

The commission will take the matter up again in September.

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