Everett hookah bar ordered to halt operations, pay fine

EVERETT — A downtown Everett hookah bar has been ordered to halt operations and pay $89,100 for violating state indoor-smoking laws.

The Hideout Hookah Lounge, part of the Wetmore Cafe at 2701 Wetmore Ave., is believed to be Snohomish County’s first hookah bar, according to county health officials.

It might also be the last.

The Snohomish Health District in 2012 filed a civil lawsuit against the bar’s owners after a series of violations going back about a year, district spokeswoman Kristin Kinnamon said Monday. It is generally against state law to smoke tobacco products inside businesses.

A Snohomish County Superior Court judge ruled in the health district’s favor on Feb. 18. The ruling wasn’t filed with the clerk’s office until last week.

The bar’s owners didn’t return a request for comment Monday. The bar’s storefront appeared empty, with no obvious signs advertising the business.

The Hideout brought in roughly $180,000 in business in 2012, according to court papers.

A hookah is a large glass pipe for smoking flavored tobacco. Smoking a hookah is considered a social activity in the Middle East. In recent years, the practice has gained popularity in the U.S., especially among young people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health officials say hookah use carries similar risks to smoking cigarettes.

Hookah bars are illegal under state law, Department of Health spokesman Tim Church said Monday.

Enforcement falls at the county level, he said. Some counties are more aggressive than others.

The bars are more common in urban areas, Church said.

The Hideout Hookah Lounge was a sort of nightclub that also sold tobacco products and non-alcoholic beverages, court papers show. No minors were allowed. The legal smoking age in Washington is 18.

About 500 to 1,000 patrons were issued membership cards. The owners told the court that bar staff were volunteers and therefore not subject to state laws that require protecting employees from secondhand smoke.

Neighbors, including a local church housed in the same building, complained about the smoke, court papers show.

Church staff said their sanctuary, bathrooms and other rooms became smoky, and parishioners and employees who have allergies were suffering.

The bar’s Facebook page appears to have been taken down. Some people posted to social media last week about celebrating the bar’s last night together.

Everett police records show officers wrote at least one informational report regarding alleged tobacco violations at the hookah bar, but police were not actively involved in the health district investigation, spokesman Aaron Snell said Monday.

Washington voters passed the indoor-smoking ban in 2005.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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