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Are hookah bars illegal? Decision is pending; Raids on


BENGALURU: The city has about 400 hookah bars but apparently , like shared taxis, they have no legal status.

That is to say there is no specific licensing provision in the civic corporation’s book to allow restaurants, cafés or other outlets to offer the ancient, elaborate smoking pipes to their patrons.

And so a crackdown has begun.

To owners of hookah joints, this is moral policing. According to them, the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) allows for smoking in enclosed spaces. They also cite the Supreme Court decision in 2014 to lift a threeyear ban on allowing hookahs in spaces designated for smoking.

The corporation, the BBMP, is studying the Act to decide if the assertion is valid. But until it reaches a conclusion, hookah bars are out.

“The city has around 400 hookah bars, of which we must have raided about 15. All of them are illegal,“ said Sarfaraz Khan, joint commissioner (health), BBMP . “During our raids, we saw school and college kids being served hookah.“

Dr Lokesh MN, chief health officer (public health), BBMP , too, is peeved about that. “Many obtain trade licences to run cafés, hotels, restaurants and bars and then they provide hookahs. Most open cafés near schools and colleges and provide hookahs inside,“ he said. “We won’t grant licences for hookah bars.“

The BBMP recently raided Cafe Azzure and Soul Cafe on MG Road, Three Dots and a Dash and The Teal Door Cafe in Indiranagar, Hook Up on Brigade Road, and Blow on Church Street. These were sealed and the operators fined Rs 1-2 lakh each.

Ashish Kothare, spokesman for the National Restaurant Association of India’s Bengaluru chapter, said while COPTA allows for hookah joints, the BBMP is within its rights to seal outlets violating rules. “According to COTPA, hookah joints have to be operated in separate enclosures as smoking zones but many restaurants offer this in common areas, which is illegal.(Anyone) running a hookah joint should have a separate enclosure with a minimum 30-person seating capacity and it should be within closed doors,“ Kothare said.

“Nobody needs a licence to smoke,“ said the owner of a café sealed by the BBMP . “If the BBMP orders us to take a separate licence to run hookah joints, we are ready to obtain that but everything is unclear. We have followed all the norms prescribed under COPTA.Despite that, BBMP officials have sealed our café.“

Source: Economic Times

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