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Staff at Fudu Lounge shisha bar in North Finchley angry at smoking ban fine from Barnet Council
Amir Hosein, who works at Fudu Lounge and has been smoking shisha for eight years, believes the activity is a good thing for the area
Staff at a North Finchley shisha bar fined for breaking anti-smoking laws say their business is being squeezed by ruthless Barnet Council inspectors.
The owner and manager of the Fudu Lounge, in High Road, were penalised by the authority earlier this month for regularly allowing the smoking of the flavoured tobacco in enclosed spaces.
Mohamadali Bohlolzadeh and Said Hawila were ordered to pay fines and costs totalling £2,930 for failing to comply with the smoking ban, introduced in 2007.
Barnet Council’s environmental health inspectors visited the business on several occasions and found smoking was regularly taking place in an “almost entirely enclosed space”.
The inspectors warned the owner to adapt the bar to ensure no more than 50 per cent of the smoking area was under cover. Their failure to do so resulted in the prosecution by the local authority.
However, Mohamad Hawila, brother of Said Hawila, told the Times Series the council’s anti-smoking stance is making it increasingly difficult for shisha businesses looking to provide a venue for the cultural smoking.
He said: “We were very angry and upset. The weather is just not good enough in this country to run a business in the open air. We tried to comply but wind and rain was coming into the lounge.
“I have to provide somewhere warm and comfortable if I want to get any customers in. No-one was looking at it from a business perspective, instead they just saw it as us breaking the law.
“We weren’t happy but it was easier to plead guilty than spend lots of money fighting it.”
Barnet Council says it is determined to enforce the smoking laws for the protection and health of its residents.
In a statement, Councillor David Longstaff, cabinet member for safety and resident engagement, said: “Using a water pipe to smoke tobacco poses a serious health hazard not only to the smoker but to those around them.
“With a growing trend of shisha bars opening across the country, Barnet Council’s environmental health and legal teams will be monitoring and taking action against any which fail to comply with legislation in this borough.
“We take our responsibility to our residents’ health very seriously and as this case proves we will follow our investigations all the way to prosecution if and where necessary.”
But Amir Hosein, who works at Fudu Lounge and has been smoking shisha for eight years, believes the activity is a good thing for the area.
He said: “People want to come along and relax and enjoy themselves. If people really want to smoke they will do so at home anyway. For some people it is a cultural need and I don’t think it is good that the council is opposing this.”
Fellow Shisha bar owner Del Mohammed, who runs the Momtaz Café in Cricklewood Broadway, believes local authorities are determined to see the death of smoking businesses.
He said: “It is very hard. I have six branches all over London and the local authorities are so unclear about what is the correct law in terms of dimensions of rooms and things like that. It makes it difficult for us to establish what the right thing to do is.
“None of them want anything to do with shisha. It is traditionally a very social, peaceful thing and there is never any problems – I don’t know why they have taken this stance.”
Since paying the fine at Fudu Lounge, Mr Hawila has opened up areas of the bar, but has suffered one or two break-ins by petty thieves as a result.
He said: “The council comes to visit us constantly and even during the terrible weather they tell us it has to be more open. It is a very peaceful activity and we cater for a lot of people working and living in the local area – how can they not see that as a good thing? They say it is bad for your health, well so is sitting in the rain.
“It is getting harder and harder, especially with the weather like it is, and it is not helping that the council won’t support us.”