Hookah bar may be coming to Selma

Published 5:46 pm Wednesday, October 19, 2016

By Blake Deshazo | The Selma Times-Journal

A hookah bar could be coming to downtown Selma, but the city council has some concerns they want to research before giving it the green light.

An ordinance that would amend the city’s smoking policy was placed on first read during the council’s last meeting. The ordinance lists the requirements and restrictions of a hookah bar if one were to open in Selma.

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“We always welcome entertainment,” said Council President Corey Bowie. “But with something of this new magnitude what we want to do is study and look around and see what other cities are doing.”

The proposed hookah bar would be in Selma’s entertainment district on Water Avenue.

“We support the entertainment district, but we have to look at other factors. We want to make sure that we look at the logistics of it before we vote to move forward with it,” Bowie said.

According to the Center for Disease Control, a hookah is a water pipe used to smoke flavored tobacco and has many of the same health risks that are associated with smoking cigarettes. The tobacco smoked in hookah pipes is often referred to as shisha.

Bowie said health risks are some of the concerns people have shared about the bar but also safety risks.

“We’re going to be looking at it with the police department and also doing a study on this new bar because it is something new to this area,” Bowie said. “The bottom line is going to be what is best for the city as a whole.”

The proposed ordinance requires a hookah bar to generate 10 percent or more of its gross quarterly revenue from alcohol sales and 80 percent of it from the sale of shisha for on premise consumption and from sales of accessories used to smoke it.

The ordinance would also require anyone that enters the premise to be 21 years or older as well as posted signs with health risks.

“The signage must be prominent, clearly visible and posted in every room where smoking is permitted,” the ordinance states. “The signage must also be displayed prominently on each bar menu.”

Selma Police Chief John Brock is against a hookah bar in Selma for many reasons.

“We don’t need it,” Brock said.

Brock said he doesn’t support it because it poses a health hazard as well as public safety hazard.

“There is very good potential of marijuana or illegal drugs being put in there too,” Brock said. “It’s just going to draw the wrong element into the downtown area that we really don’t need.”

Brock said the bar also has potential for crime similar to some nightclubs in Selma, which have had shootings and other crimes happen outside of them.

“It would be an added problem we would have to deal with on weekends and at night,” Brock said. “We don’t need more problems. We’ve got enough as it is.”

Bowie said the council will get input from Chief Brock and the police department as well as the community before a final decision is made on the ordinance.