COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Columbus City Council is considering proposed legislation to regulate hookah lounges.
Members of the Somali community brought up concerns, claiming youth violence, underage drinking and drug use stems from the establishments.
“The Somali community has lost seven young men in less than two months,” said director of Somali Islamic Centers of Ohio Horsed Noah. “Every time I talk to those parents because they come to me for spiritual healing, they tell me they were on their way over there or they were at that place or that’s where the trouble started.”
Most recently on Sunday, a woman was killed and two other people were shot at a bar and hookah lounge on the southeast side. Noah said although they were not Somali, they are still apart of the community.
“We take it very seriously and that’s why this proposal came from our community leaders, especially the faith leaders,” he said. “We don’t want to lose any of our sons and daughters anymore.”
Just last week, Noah along with dozens more met with City Council president Zach Klein to discuss their concerns. In the hearing, Klein said there was testimony stating underage teens are getting into hookah lounges, among other things.
“There was allegations of child solicitation, there was underage drinking, people bringing in their own booze, all of that and then drug use within the hookahs themselves and then all of that spilling into the street in the early hours of the morning,” said Klein.
He said the proposed legislation would raise entry into a hookah lounge to 21. It would also ban operating hours between 11pm Sunday and 7am Monday morning through Thursday morning, between midnight Friday and 7am Saturday and between midnight Saturday and 7am Sunday.
“This is a community problem I think if done correctly and bringing in the right players, can strengthen the quality of life in our neighborhoods,” said Klein.
So far, there is no timeline on when this proposed legislation could end up at city council for a vote.