Vancouver hookah lounges could close down in four weeks

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The longstanding court case over the last two hookah shops in Vancouver will be taking a new direction soon.

Persian Tea House and Ahwaz Hookah have been stuck in an ongoing case that dates back to 2007, when the two shops were charged for violating a health bylaws prohibiting smoking indoor the city had installed that same year.

Last Friday, the judge gave his reason on why he dismissed the appeal. The appeal stated that the shisha was in fact not burning, in accordance with the given definition of smoking which requires the substance to burn. But the judge said that the act would be contravened anyways, as the charcoal on top of the shisha is burning.

Now, a stay has been put into effect that will allow the shops to remain open for 30 more days. After that, their future is uncertain.

B.C. tobacco control legislation says that hookah shops can operate as long as they don’t use tobacco. The two shops switched to herbal shisha to comply with the law, but in August 2014, B.C. Supreme Court upheld the bylaw. The owners, Abdolabbas Abdiannia and Abdolhamid Mohammadian, appealed the decision though their appeal was shot down by the judge.

“I’m going to be speaking to my clients this week, to see how they want to move forward, whether it’s appealing again, or exploring other options,” said Dean Davison, the lawyer representing the owners of Persian Tea House and Ahwaz Hookah.

Since the court case began, new technology that has arisen since the court case began may become an important factor in the dispute. Since the emergence of E-cigarettes, a product known as the E-coal has come to the market.

“It’s like a charcoal but doesn’t burn like one, so there might be an option for the hookah shops to switch to that,” said Davison.

Mohammadian and Abdiannia will now have to make their decision on what to do next. Davison said that whatever direction they take, they will be trying to get another stay to keep the shops open while the court case is ongoing.

Persian Tea House, owned by Mohammadian, has been operating for 17 years, though he has been stuck in legal battle for seven of those years.

Davison believes it is ironic that vapour lounges have been allowed to house smoking customers in their businesses while the two hookah shops face closure.

“I don’t think it’s a secret that vapour shops and marijuana shops allow people to smoke. That being said, hookah and shisha aren’t even illegal. It’s molasses, not tobacco,” said Davison.

Davison said when this was brought up in court, “all the city of Vancouver could say was they’re trying to deal with certain things in a certain way.”

In April, Mohammadian announced he would be enduring a hunger strike to save his business. Davison said the 68-year-old man says he is still on hunger strike.

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Behdad Mahichi is currently an Editorial Assistant at Vancity Buzz and a journalism student at Ryerson University. He writes about anything from entertainment and politics to his misfortunately extreme caffeine addiction.
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