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City that led successful charge to legalize pot statewide now in fight over clamping down on hookah lounges


Want to smoke pot in Washington state? Well, it's legal now.

Want to smoke tobacco indoors as part of a private club on private property? Hold on now, champ.

Welcome to Seattle:

Lounge owners and customers, who spoke to The Times before the county’s orders were sent, said the city’s planned ticketing was ill-advised.

Their customers, who consume tobacco often mixed with sweet fruit and candy flavors, are consenting adults who want to smoke in a social setting, owners say.

Patrons are well aware of health hazards involved, said Frank Fu, primary owner of the Night Owl in the University District.

Fu said Thursday he is facing $370 in penalties after the county’s action and is considering whether to appeal. “I am close to just calling it quits,” he said.

Ticketing customers, as was planned in June, would have effectively closed the lounges, said Ahmed Ali, a 21-year-old customer at the Royal Spot Hookah near Yesler Terrace. “They would never come back,” he said of customers.

County health officials said Thursday that the lounges are endangering workers and patrons by violating the 2005 smoking ban passed by voters.

Club owners complain that the city should work with them to regulate what they consider legal, private clubs.

They say the lounges charge a membership fee, usually about $5 for one year, and that they don’t subject employees to secondhand smoke — a violation of the indoor smoking ban — because those who work there are considered part-owners or are family.

The lounges don’t sell alcohol. Nor have there been reports of marijuana smoking inside them, according to city and county officials. But the lounges are open into the early-morning hours — some until 4 a.m. — and tend to attract patrons after bars close.

Officials said the six cited lounges were open to the public, operating similarly to nightclubs that charge a cover fee.

Health experts warn hookah smoking poses a serious hazard.

Good thing the pro-potheads are looking out for us.

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