Hookah lounge owner worried Toronto ban will result in business closure

TORONTO – A Toronto Hookah lounge owner expects a ban passed by Toronto City Council Wednesday will lead to the closure of his Scarborough business.

Rizig Sayes, owner of 3 Kings hookah lounge said he was very disappointed with council decision.

“What that means is a lot of businesses will have to shut down, including this one,” Sayes said. “Our staff will be let go because we don’t really have an option at this point.”

3 Kings has been open for four years, employing five staff and usually sees a minimum of 30 to 40 guests a night.

“It was almost like an attack on a culture,” Sayes said. “You have other places that are running – like [vapour] lounges – in Toronto and smoking is allowed and alcohol is allowed. If we are going to ban smoking, lets ban all smoking.”
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City council voted on Wednesday to ban the social practice in a landslide vote, 34-3, after a report recommended the banning of hookah use in licensed establishments, citing health concerns.

READ MORE: Toronto city council votes to ban the use of hookahs in licensed establishments

Mayor John Tory said Wednesday hookah lounges will have to readjust their business and have until April 2016 to do so. Noel Gerry, a lawyer representing 14 hookah lounges said these establishments exist because of the water pipe.

“The vast majority of my clients derive the majority of their income and revenue from hookah smoking,” Gerry said.

“They are not geared up to be cafes or coffee shops or restaurants or bars. They are shisha lounges.”

For Rizig Sayes, he said the decision seems to be a double standard.

“Why should be keep letting the government sell cigarettes or letting vapour lounges operate or sell alcohol? It’s the same exact argument,” he said.

“I have to go get another job or start another business … at the end of the day this industry was killed and it angers everyone.”

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