Saturday, May 08, 2010

Will Dearborn Lose Her Hubbly-Bubbly?

Michigan’s new antismoking law went into effect on May 1st. To no one’s surprise it’s being reported in the Detroit Free Press as having a discriminatory effect on Arabs. (“Hookah café owners: Ban will ruin us”).

The law bans establishments that offer hookah smoking from selling any food or beverages -- a move that owners say would effectively drive out hookah cafés.

What galls the owners -- most of them Arab American -- is that the state has given exemptions for cigar bars and Detroit casinos to allow smoking along with eating and drinking. To them, the issue is tinged with religious and ethnic bias.

“It's a double standard,” Akram Allos, owner of Sinbad Café in Dearborn, said while puffing on a mint-flavored hookah. “Just because we didn't have a lobbyist, why should we have to suffer?”

For what it’s worth, I think the smoking ban goes too far. If people want to gather in bars and restaurants and smoke hookahs, it’s okay with me. I also understand that that hookah-smoking is a part of Middle Eastern culture. I like the idea of these cafes in Dearborn and would hate to see them disappear. But social smoking is no more unique to Arab culture than it is to redneck culture, or to college bohemian culture, or war veteran culture, or drunken co-worker culture, or just about any other group you can think of besides Baptists.

But is this really discrimination, guys? Casino customers are not a privileged ethnic group, unless you want to call them Sucker-Americans. Nor is it discrimination that one political group coughs up (no pun intended) for a lobbyist and you don’t. That’s just life in the Great Satan.

“The law caters to wealthy special interests,” said Mike Berry, owner of 360 Degrees Lounge and Grill in Dearborn, which offers hookah smoking. Berry and other hookah café owners say that lobbyists and politicians in Lansing can relate to cigar smoking and that the Detroit casinos wield great power. In contrast, the hookah café owners and Arab Americans lacked a lobbyist to press the issue, Berry said.
But not because of prejudice. And you can be sure it’s not because café owners couldn’t afford lobbyists:

Ali Badawi said he invested $650,000 -- about $90,000 for the limestone exterior alone -- to build up from scratch a new hookah café and restaurant in the heart of east Dearborn. It opened just a few months ago, a flag that reads “Grand Opening” still fluttering outside its entrance along Schaefer Road.
What stopped Badawi from investing some of that 650 grand, with some contributions from his shisha-smoking business roundtable, and greasing a few legislators of their own? But nooooo. “’It's discrimination,’ said Akram Allos, owner of Sinbad Café in Dearborn.”

Shoot, it is not. You just needed to keep trying Badawi’s cell phone.

Now Badawi says the new antismoking law will put him out of business, “forcing him to fire employees and disappoint loyal customers.

“’All this,’ he said while gazing across Prestige Café & Grill, ‘’“will go down the drain.’”

Hmm. Badawi spends $650,000 to build a hookah lounge even while the smoking-law train has been rolling into town for three years? Something tells me Badawi is no stranger to watching investments go “all down the drain.”

Anyway, as Narikoo writes in his article:
Not all Arab Americans are upset with the law change.

Shady Shebak, 23, of Livonia is a medical student who said he supports the law for health reasons. And he's uneasy about Arab Americans using the hookah as a cultural symbol.

“As an Arab, I would rather us be known for something else besides hookahs,” said Shebak, who smokes hookahs himself.
I don’t think you’ll need to worry, Shady.


Anonymous said...

Discrimination? Aw bullshit! Where were all these ragheaded bastards when the bill was being crafted in Lansing? Now that it's Law, out comes the aye-rabs and their race card?

Fuck 'em.

Redneck said...

Dear anonymous, I am a red neck and I say you are a racist , so I say fuck you ! ! !