Shisha lounge owners warn new city ban will put them out of business
EDMONTON -- Owners of Edmonton shisha lounges say a new law that came into effect on Canada Day will put them out of business.
Legislation that came into effect Wednesday bans smoking shisha in restaurants and lounges.
"It's very important because many of our community, they don't do alcohol or they don't smoke marijuana," said Khaldoun Hakima, owner of Mazati Mediterranean Cuisine. "This is the only thing we enjoy."
"We respect the culture of people who want to go drink alcohol in the bar, why do you want to take our culture from us?"
Edmonton city councillors voted last summer to ban smoking of shisha, putting under the same anti-smoking bylaw that was passed in the late 2000s.
Coun. Scott McKeen told CTV News last year that shisha should have been included in the smoking bylaw when it was first passed, more than a decade ago.
"This is leveling the playing field appropriately, and is fair to all those businesses years ago who were fearful that they were going to lose customers over the smoking issue," McKeen said.
Coun. Jon Dziadyk says he's always opposed a ban and says it's something councillors should revisit.
"I think in the time we're in now with COVID impacting so many small businesses ... I think it is appropriate now with the change in context to consider these remain open," he said.
Hakima says the issue comes down to consumer choice.
"We don’t force anybody to smoke shisha here. If you like it you come. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to come," he said.
He says even a temporary reprieve is unlikely to save his business over the long run, but isn't giving up yet.
"I am going to go into bankruptcy or shut down and I lose my money," he said.
"We are going to fight for last moment to keep our culture, our right to smoke the shisha."