Councilman seeks change to hookah bar liquor license rule

A city councilman in Nebraska is working to replace an ordinance that would require the Muslim owners of a new hookah lounge to serve alcohol in violation of their faith.

The ordinance requires businesses in Lincoln that allow indoor smoking to obtain a liquor license, which means they must stock and sell alcohol. Mustafa Albusharif and Mohanad Akrawee want to open 88 Hookah Lounge and serve hookah, teas and juices, but they don't want to sell alcohol because their Muslim faith prohibits it, the Lincoln Journal-Star reported.

"Our goal is to be a chill place for students and to show the community of Lincoln a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern style of smoking hookah," Albusharif said.

Now, Councilman Roy Christensen has stepped in to push for change. He said he started working with the city's law department to draft an ordinance that would allow businesses including 88 Hookah Lounge to operate in compliance with their faith and law.

"We need to fix our ordinance," said Christensen. He said the city ordinance can be eliminated because state law governs the issue.

An amendment in 2015 made cigar bars legal in Nebraska in 2015 under the state's Clean Indoor Air Act. But state law doesn't allow them to sell anything else, such as alcohol, coffee, soft drinks or candy.

City Attorney Jeff Kirkpatrick said the challenge of addressing the hookah lounge's problem is that Lincoln's ordinances cannot be more permissive than state law. Permitting a hookah lounge to allow indoor tobacco smoking and sell coffees and teas would violate state law.

If 88 Hookah Lounge opens, it would be the only hookah business in the city.

"Hopefully we get this business open and show the community of Lincoln the tradition of our country," Albusharif said.


Information from: Lincoln Journal Star,