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Ban intended for hookah lounges backfires

Publication Date: 2013-03-01
  • Author:Bob Mercer

An attempt by Rapid City officials to have the Legislature make hookah lounges comply with the state’s smoking ban backfired Thursday.

 A House panel reversed the legislation, so that hookah lounges would be exempt if they were in actual operation before Jan. 1.

 Rep. Anne Hajek, R-Sioux Falls, warned a bigger door might be opening.

 “I think we’ve enlarged what liquor establishments can have smoking,” she said.

 The House Local Government Committee voted 8-4 to add the hookah exemption and send the new version of the bill to the full House of Representatives. It could be debated by House members as early as Tuesday afternoon.

 The original legislation brought by Sen. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City, sought to define smoking in state law.

 State law generally prohibits smoking in any public place or place of employment. He said operators of hookah establishments claimed the 2009 ban didn’t apply to their businesses.

The Senate approved Tieszen’s version 31-3 two weeks ago. It was turned on its head Thursday by the House committee.

 The panel approved an exemption for hookah establishments proposed by Brian Winckel and Charles Desmond of Rapid City.

 Winckel and Desmond are two of the owners of Ifrits Hookah Lounge in Rapid City. The third owner is Ian Handley of Ellsworth Air Force Base.

 Winckel and Desmond contend their business should have special status because it was open before the smoking ban.

 However, they didn’t own it until months after the ban had been passed by the Legislature.

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