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Dearborn has new restrictions for hookah lounges

Restrictions include requiring customers to be 18

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DEARBORN, Mich. – Dearborn is trying to clear the air with restrictions for hookah lounges.

With a large Arab-American population, hookah lounges aren't hard to find in the city. Mayor Jack O'Reilly said the city needed to step in to regulate the establishments, which are exempt from the state smoking ban and that fall outside the state law.

"There's only 300 exemptions statewide. We already had 15 formal. We had almost twice that in other informal businesses," O'Reilly said. He's referring to the hookah lounges that user herbal products, not tobacco. Those are not regulated the same by the state.

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"We are just trying to get a handle on it to make sure this is consistent with the intent of the law," O'Reilly said.

Restrictions that fall under new ordinances include requiring that customers must be at least 18 and prohibits loitering. The establishments are banned from opening within 1,200 feet of another cafe or less than 700 feet from a school, child care facility or park.

The new ordinance also limits the number of smoking lounges the clerk can approve to 15 and requires all of them to get state exemptions.

Community activist Majed Moughni said hookah lounges thrive in the city because of the demographic, and there are fears that some business owners will be forced to close.

"We need to be more worried about smoking guns than smoking bars," he said. "The people who are using it are mostly, especially in our community, it's the young Arab-Americans who want to basically go out to a place where it's free of alcohol and they can enjoy themselves."

O'Reilly said it's all about creating a safer city.

"Dearborn is going to likely to have a higher demand for that. I'm fine with that. The issue is making sure everyone is safe," he said.