Two Rusholme shisha café owners have been fined following a campaign by Manchester City Council to crackdown on illegally operating shisha bars.
Mathim Saleh, manager of Shotz Cafe, and Samir Merza, who runs Blue Mist, both on Wilmslow Road in Rusholme, were ordered to pay nearly £3,000 for allowing customers to smoke hookah in a smoke-free premises.
The owners were penalised following a written warning by the council to stop all smoking inside the premises.
Two subsequent visits to the cafés showed that the owners had not taken notice of the council’s warning. City Council environmental health officers and police officers visited the cafés to discover that customers were still smoking narghile.
Councillor Nigel Murphy, Manchester City Council's executive member for the environment, said: “These prosecutions should serve as a warning to other businesses who think they can get away with breaking the law.
“They will be taken to court and face a harsh penalty. People may think that smoking shisha is not as harmful as cigarettes, but all the evidence says this is not the case.”
During a Manchester Magistrates' court hearing, Mr Merza and Mr Saleh was fined after pleading guilty to permitting smoking in a smoke-free place. Mr Saleh was fined £75 and Mr Merza - £200 plus additional £500 costs after admitting two counts of allowing smoking in a smoke-free place.
Lara Café Limited, the company that Blue Mist trades under, was fined £1,300 plus additional £711.71 costs after pleading guilty to the same offence.
Rabnawaz Akbar, Councillor of Rusholme Ward, told MM that restaurant owners have complained that their quests have to leave the building to smoke in order to comply with the smoking ban. At the same time, visitors to shisha bars are allowed to openly flout the law.
Residents have also reported anti-social behaviour resulting from shisha cafes operating until the early hours of the morning. A neighbour who lives on a street adjacent to Wilmslow Road was disturbed until 3 or 4am on a regular basis by noise from people leaving the shisha bars.
“What really upset him though was that he had been the manager of a local pub until it closed down following the introduction of the smoking ban but everyday he walked past illegal shisha bars with people still smoking indoors: he could not see any fairness in that,” said Councillor Kate Chappell.
However, not all shisha bars operate illegally. To comply with the 2007 smoking ban, public premises, including bars, where smoking is permitted must have 50 per cent of the smoking area open.
Given growing concerns about the increasing number of illegally operating shisha bars and the health risks associated with smoking shisha, Cllr Akbar and Cllr Chappell have also announced an awareness campaign that will take place in March.
A Stop Smoking/Health Check bus will be placed in the Meezan car park in Rusholme for six to eight weeks. The people on Wilmslow Road will be leafleted and made aware about the campaign and issues related to waterpipe smoking.
“We are also exploring the possibility of bus shelter advertising informing people of the risks of shisha smoking, especially near university student accommodation,” said Cllr Akbar.