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Dearborn places moratorium on new hookah bars

Dearborn currently has 15 hookah bars.
Dearborn currently has 15 hookah bars.
Courtesy of the Vanilla Hookah Lounge

In an age where smoking is shunned more and more, Dearborn has become a home for hookah bars. The Detroit suburb has 15 licensed hookah bars, which historically have been popular among the area's Arab American community.

Last week though, the Dearborn City Council voted 5-2 to put a 180-day moratorium on adding new hookah bars.

The reason that the city gave for the moratorium is that although the city has 15 licensed establishments that are doing well, it has run into a problem with unlicensed hookah bars opening recently. Dearborn Mayor Jack O'Reilly Jr. recently said that the city believes there are about 15 unlicensed establishments in town.

“We should slow down the growth of this industry until we have a better idea of the rules,” O'Reilly told the Detroit Free Press. “It's just a cooling off period.”

In 2010, Michigan enacted a law that banned smoking in almost all restaurants and bars. After some continued discussion, an exemption was granted to 300 hookah bars in Michigan, allowing them to stay open. Some unlicensed hookah bars have argued that they're exempt from this Michigan law because they use herbs instead of tobacco in their hookahs.

Another issue that stops opening of new hookah bars is that the state will not grant additional exemptions above the 300 that it has currently given. The only way to open a new, legal hookah bar is to be given a transfer of one of the current licenses.

The two votes against the six-month moratorium belonged to Dearborn City Council President Susan Dabaja and City Councilman Michael Sareini. Dearborn currently has the highest concentration of hookah bars in Michigan.

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