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Mumbai Mayor opens hookah parlour, starts a controversy


The Ustadi Charcoal Lounge, a restaurant in Mumbai’s Dockyard Road also has a hookah service, something the Mayor’s party (Shiv Sena) is against.

Mumbai Mayor Snehal Ambekar was the chief guest at the opening ceremony of the Ustadi Charcoal Lounge in Dockyard Road last week. Nothing wrong there except that that the restaurant also has a hookah parlour.

Hookah parlours are something her own party, the Shiv Sena, are opposed to and Ambekar’s predecessor, Dr Shubha Raul, had spearheaded a virulent campaign against them.

“The mayor should not have inaugurated a hookah parlour. This sends a wrong message. She is encouraging activities her own party are opposed to,” Sandeep Deshpande, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) group leader in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) reacted.

The BMC had, in 2008, initiated action against coffee bars and bistros serving hookahs, following a campaign by Raul. Raul’s argument was that a lot of teenagers were getting addicted to hookahs, which contained nicotine. The High Court had, in 2011, upheld a BMC circular banning these parlours. However, the Supreme Court lifted the ban last year.

However, hookah parlour is not the only issue in the latest episode. Ustadi restaurant itself is under BMC scanner as it has made a lot of illegal alterations to the building.

Ambekar did admit that she inaugurated the restaurant. “However, I was not aware of what is sold there. I don’t support hookah parlours. If there is any illegal construction, I will ask the BMC to take action. I have nothing to do with the restaurant,” she said.

BMC officials said that they are looking into the complaint. “If there are any irregularities, we will take action,” said Kishore Desai, Assistant Municipal Commissioner, E ward.

Quzair Quereshi, owner of Ustadi, denied that there was any illegal construction. “There is no unauthorised construction. We have not received any notice from the BMC. Everything has been done as per norms,” was his version.

Source: DNA

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