Orchard Lake could soon be home to a hookah lounge if the City Council gives its stamp of approval to the Puff Hookah Lounge, which has applied for a building alteration in the southeast corner of Mike Karcho’s strip center that formerly housed Electric Beach.
Owner Toby Bally is anxiously awaiting the council’s decision, which is expected at a Monday, May 16 meeting.
“I’ll have to wait and see what the City Council wants to do and won’t comment until after I get the approval,” Bally said.
According to Orchard Lake Building Official Gerry McCallum, a hookah lounge is a permitted use in the city.
“I conferred with the city planner, who said it’s a permitted use in Zone 6,” he said.
A hookah is a smoking pipe with a tube passing through an urn filled with water that cools the smoke as it is drawn through. Hookah lounges are establishments where patrons share shisha — flavored tobacco — from a communal hookah placed at each table.
Changes to Michigan’s smoking laws have ushered in the popularity of hookah establishments.
Under the Michigan smoking ban for food and beverage service establishments, smoking is not allowed in any indoor area, or in outdoor areas where patrons receive and consume food and beverages. However, smoking is allowed in outdoor areas where food and drinks aren’t served.
Hookah bars are no exception, though they can apply for an exemption.
According to the state of Michigan, a hookah bar may submit an application for a specialty license to qualify as a tobacco specialty retail smoke shop, and thus become exempt from the smoking ban. However, such hookah bars may not have either a food service license or a liquor license.
Included in Bally’s proposal is an outdoor seating area where coffee and soft drinks would also be sold. No alcohol would be served.
“Since we changed our outdoor seating ordinance, as long as the rules are complied with, we can go ahead and permit it administratively depending on council’s approval of the business license,” McCallum said.