Cover Story: Fuming Over the Smoking Ban

Local hookah joints and cigar bars fight to light-up

Feb 28, 2007 at 2:06 pm
Graham Lienhart

Allison Kate and Jeff Blum smoke the hookah at Andy's Mediterranean Grill.

The smoking ban is especially troublesome to local hangouts that specialize in smoking ambiance. While some restaurants attract clientele solely on food and ambiance, Andy's Mediterranean Grill and Havana Martini Club depend on smoking to help create their entertainment.

Majed Hajjar, an employee at Andy's, says, "We have lawyers looking into this. Smoking hookah is nothing like smoking cigarettes. There aren't the negative health effects of secondhand smoke."

Indeed, many who frequent Andy's can't imagine it without the hookah, and it seems that Andy's is taking the ban quite personally. In addition, they have an outside smoking area that might not be subject to the ban.

The potential for a major shift in focus is even more serious for the Havana Martini Club. As the owner, Sandy Meyer, explained, she recently signed a 10-year lease in the Carew Tower based on the success of her business during the last 11 years of selling cigars and martinis. She also spent "an arm and a leg" building a walk-in humidor.

As she put it, "We are a cigar bar, and they are telling us we can't sell cigars."

Like Andy's, Havana Martini Club has hired lobbyists to work on its behalf. Meyer explained, "We're hoping we can work out some kind of exception, like a grandfather clause, so we can stay in business. We've carved out a niche, and without cigars that is gonna disappear."