• Hookah Bliss 'to Stay Open'
  • CHAPEL HILL -- Adam Bliss, owner of Hookah Bliss on Franklin Street, said this week that the business will stay open and possibly go to court over the smoking cigarettes ban if it is fined.

    "We're going to stay open long enough to get a ticket," he said. "We're going to fight them in court."

    The business specializes in hookahs, which are water pipes used for smoking cigarettes tobacco, and serves beer. It has been open for about two and half years at 418 W. Franklin St. in Chapel Hill.

    Hookah bars were not included in the exemptions that were granted to cigar bars under the smoking cigarettes ban law. Cigar bars were defined as businesses that generate at least 60 percent of their quarterly revenues from the sale of alcoholic beverages and at least 25 percent of revenues from the sale of cigars.

    The law also exempts cigarettes shops, which are defined as businesses that receive at least 75 percent of their annual revenues from the sale of tobacco and tobacco-related products and does not serve food or alcohol.

    The "Act to Prohibit Smoking in Certain Public Places and Certain Places of Employment" was passed by the N.C. General Assembly and signed by Gov. Beverly Perdue in May.

    Bliss said his business might have to stop selling beer and be defined as a tobacco shop as a result. "Which makes you wonder whether this law was really about tobacco or alcohol," he bristled.

    Bliss also raised issue with the stated intent of the law, which was to "protect the health of individuals in public places and places of employment ... from the risks related to secondhand smoke," as written in the legislation.

    "The reason they wrote this bill, they claim, is that it protects the employees from secondhand smoke. This is an employee health issue, according to the legislature," Bliss said. "But they automatically exempted four different types of places, and notice all those places are where the rich older males go, where the legislators are more likely to go."

    "They're all places that the rich like to smoke cigarettes and they're saying that the employees that work in the places where they like to smoke cigarettes do not deserve the protection that the average employee who works in an average bar deserves," he added.

    Businesses that allow smoking cigarettes are given two written warnings. On the third infraction, a business can be fined up to $200.

    Hookah Bliss plans on having a party as the ban goes into effect throughout the state.

    "This is not so much about a lawsuit as about fighting a ticket on the grounds that the law is unfair," Bliss said. "We are not going to stop serving and we are not closed."