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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Many sweepstakes parlors left town after North Carolina banned them but those weren’t the only businesses forced to close their doors. A ban on hookah bars left many business owners with nowhere to turn one couple is ignoring the ban and hoping for better luck in a new location.

“I am trying to adjust myself with the law,” said owner Gulbahar Guven. “I will never break the law but I also don’t agree with them with how they want to operate our business.”

For Guven and her husband Shady Aziz, they’re doing everything they can to keep their small business from going up in smoke.

“People in the south don’t really know what a hookah is and because of that sometimes they look at us in a different look like we are trying to do something illegal,” said Aziz.

The couple is trying to make their hookah business a success at a new location on Market Street. This is the same spot a sweepstakes parlor used to call home but because of another state ban the video poker business was forced to close its doors. It’s a fear the couple thinks could become a reality for them as well.

“If it keeps going that way we might eventually have to either convert to a different type of business or just close it down,” said Aziz.

The couple’s hookah bar used to be located in downtown Wilmington but lack of parking and abuse of alcohol started to run their business into the ground. Despite the state’s smoking ban affecting bars, restaurants and hookah establishments, they’re hoping to get their business back on the ground but say it’s not going to be easy.

“Hookah by itself is not going to make success that’s why we are trying to add more games or disc jockey or belly dancers,” said Guven.

Very few hookah bars remain in Wilmington after the state implemented the ban more than a year ago. Some people feel sweepstakes parlors and hookah bars draw the wrong crowd to them but customers disagree.

“You could say that about anything really,” said Taylor Jessup. “It’s just the people and how you choose to act.”

The New Hanover County Health Department says the smoking ban is complaint driven so unless it gets a complaint about a hookah bar or smoking inside an establishment it does not actively enforce the law.

To learn more about the North Carolina’s smoking ban, go to:


Comment on this Story

  • Yusuf

    I don’t think a hookah bar would bring the wrong kind of crowded. If there worried about that why not close down or regulate some of those bars in Wilmington and get rid of all those drunk collage students who are up all night drinking and making downtown unsafe to go at night?

  • Erin

    I think this interview was portrayed in the wrong light and has almost villianized the owners of the hookah bar. Wilmington is a college city and I would much rather my child be in a controlled environment of fun at a hookah bar than out doing God knows what. They aren’t doing anything wrong, in fact, I think NC has been stepping into our own personal boundaries and invading our space. Leave the hookah bar in peace and spend time worrying about more important things.


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