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Hookah bar fined for violating smoking ban

READ MORE: Hookah bar fined for violating smoking ban

North Carolina's indoor smoking ban took effect January 2. You knew it was just a matter of time before a business in the area would get hit with a violation.

The Juggling Gypsy Cafe on Castle Street in Wilmington is the first establishment in the Cape Fear Region that we know of to be fined for violating the smoking ban. It's a $200 fine. Owner Sebastian Gomez tells us he plans to appeal the New Hanover County Health Department's ruling.

"First of all we don't consider ourselves a bar and restaurant," Gomez said. "We're a live studio and they're debating us on that, but yeah we're smoking here. In fact we're smoking more than ever at the Juggling Gypsy, but it's not tobacco, so where's the problem?"

The Juggling Gypsy had tried to use a loophole in state law that allows performers in productions to smoke. The hookah bar required patrons to sign releases saying they are performers with live internet cameras.

That apparently did not stop the Health Department from enforcing the smoking ban.

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no kidding

all the owner is doing is making sure his business survives. and why not? anyone who doesn't want to smoke and be surrounded by smoke decides to go into a hookah bar...well, common sense anyone? don't go to a place where it's primary business is smoking hookahs! if you were just ignorant, then leave! go to your smoke free bars elsewhere, you know, the ones where you're not helping the business by ordering a hookah because it's a HOOKAH BAR.

if cigar bars should get an exemption, so should hookah bars. unless you would like to enlighten me on what makes them so different or makes cigars better/safer/healthier than flavored tobacco/herbal shisha/sugarcane shisha. care to share?

Go Bash!

Go Bash!

Health Department Responsibilities

The Juggling Gypsy Hookah Bar located at 1612 Castle Street, Wilmington, NC is not exempt from the new law. Because The Juggling Gypsy serves food and alcohol, they are inspected by the health department and the ABC commission, and as such, they are required to comply with the Smoke Free Bars and Restaurants law. If they did not serve food or alcohol, they would be deemed a tobacco shop, and would therefore be exempt from the law. As the law is written, the health department serves as the authority for administrating penalties when necessary. Unfortunately, after repeated attempts to educate The Juggling Gypsy ownership and management of their need to comply with the law, they were still found to be in violation. It then became the responsibility of the health department to render the required administrative penalties as the law is written. As soon as The Juggling Gypsy comes into compliance with the law, the fines will cease. The health department does not enjoy fining a local business for any reason, as we are a part of the community and want to see it thrive, but as the designated authority, we have no choice. Additionally, any money paid toward administrative penalties by non-compliant bars and/or restaurants goes to the state educational fund; the health department does not profit from any paid fines.

the issue is the law as it is written

The issue is not the health department interpreting the law or enforcing the law. I think it is obvious that the Juggling Gypsy probably relies upon the revenue from the food and alcohol it does serve as well as the hookahs. Eliminating one or the other would probably effectively close the business. Eliminating smoking in bars and restaurants does not have the same impact as consumers do not go to bars and restaurants for the purpose of smoking. I have been to the Juggling Gypsy and hookah smoking does not appeal to me but the live shows do and spending time with friends who enjoy the hookahs do. It would certainly be a less enjoyable experience for me if I could not be served food or drink when I am choosing to put myself in an establishment whose focal point is a form of smoking. It is just common sense. The law in its present form is the issue.

While it concerns me that our legislature is over stepping what I see to be its remit, it concerns me even more that in drafting this legislation that businesses like this one were not taken into consideration. It is not unique. No purpose or good comes from forcing these type businesses to close or restricting their services when 100% of the patrons of these establishments are voluntarily exposing themselves to smoke.

Another place

How about you guys from the Health Department paying a visit to the American Legion Post on Pine Grove? It is a bar with food service that still allows people to smoke inside.