Hookah off menu, raids on
Several bars in the city have taken hookah off their menu while police raided some of the establishments and arrested four persons on Saturday and Sunday.
The owner of one of the hookah bars said the police called them on Saturday asking them to stop serving hookah.
The owner of another bar said he called up the police to know what to do and was told that all decisions on enforcement of the hookah ban, announced by mayor Firhad Hakim on Friday, were being taken by Lalbazar and the local police station might not be in the know. The owner said he decided to stop offering hookah.
Hakim on Friday said the license of all the existing hookah bars in the city would be cancelled and no new licenses would be issued to hookah bars within the jurisdiction of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation.
The move, Hakim said, was the outcome of multiple complaints of the use of drugs in hookah bars that could lead to addiction in the young generation. “We have received many complaints about hookah bars. We have heard that in some hookah bars drugs are used,” he said on Friday.
There are several hookah bars that used to run in the city with or without a license, sources in the police said.
The Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation has also decided to shut down hookah bars across its jurisdiction and a letter has been sent to the police commissioner of Bidhannagar seeking the police’s “intervention and help”.
The civic body has decided not to issue any trade licence to these joints anymore. An official said a notification from the Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation is expected by Thursday.
The notification banning such establishments will be applicable across all 41 wards of the civic body that includes Salt Lake, Baguiati and Rajarhat.
Officials of two other hookah bars said they stopped serving hookah after hearing about the mayor’s announcement.
Hakim had on Friday said no new licences would be issued for hookah bars and all existing licences would stand cancelled.
He said on Saturday that the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) would issue a notice within a fortnight banning all hookah bars in the city.
The city police have arrested four persons from three hookah bars in the last two days. The bars that were raided were on Bidhan Sarani in the Tallah police station area, Muzaffar Ahmed Street in the Park Street police station area and Rajdanga Main Road in Kasba.
Four hookah sets have been seized, the police said.
All the cases have been registered under Sections 188 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code and Section 20(2) of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act 2003. All the sections are bailable.
The manager of the Kasba hookah bar who was arrested on Saturday night was produced in the Alipore court on Sunday. He has been granted bail against a personal bond of Rs 10,000, a source in the court said.
“We received a call from the office of the deputy commissioner of police on Saturday asking us to stop offering hookah. We have since stopped serving hookah. We are only serving food,” said Ayaz Ahmed, owner of La Letizia Cafe and Restro on Beckbagan Row.
There are three cafes in the building that houses La Letizia. All of them have stopped serving hookah, said Sahil Khan, owner of Koyla Cafe and Lounge, housed in the Beckbagan Row building.
“I enquired with the police and they said steps would be taken by Lalbazar. I do not want to get into any trouble and so decided to stop serving hookah. I will wait and see what the government decides,” said Khan.
Mintelaa, a cafe in Minto Park, is among those that have stopped offering hookah to patrons.
Rahul De, who identified himself as the in-charge of the place over the phone, said they stopped serving hookah after hearing about Hakim’s announcement.
A representative of Olterra, Park Street, said on Sunday: “We have stopped serving hookah. No one is serving hookah on Park Street.”
The owner of a hookah bar had earlier said that many such bars did not have a licence from the CMC to serve hookah. The owners, he said, are running hookah bars following a verbal nod from the local police.
“No separate licence was issued for a hookah bar. The licence to operate a hookah bar was given in addition to the one for running a cafe or a restaurant,” said a CMC official.