Hookah Bar bidding to extend hours, play music after 10 p.m
Posted: December 12, 2012
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — Nearly a year after City Council denied his request for a nightclub permit, the owner of the Ali Baba Hookah Bar is back with a similar appeal.
Emad Khezam is seeking a conditional-use permit (CUP) to operate a nightclub so he can offer amplified music after 10 p.m. at the business at 932 Berryville Ave.
He wants to modify the hours of operation agreed to when the hookah bar received a permit to open, enabling the business to close at 2 a.m. instead of midnight.
The permit request was discussed Tuesday at the Winchester Planning Commission’s monthly work session. A public hearing on the request will be held at 3 p.m. next Tuesday, and the commissioners are expected to vote to recommend approval or denial of the permit afterward.
City Council has the final say over whether the permit will be granted and would consider it no earlier than its January meeting.
Hookahs are water pipes commonly used to smoke flavored tobaccos called “shisha.” The tobacco and flavoring mix is heated in a bowl atop the hookah, and the smoke passes through water before being inhaled through a hose.
Khezam is not seeking permission to serve alcohol at the hookah bar. That was part of the request City Council denied in February.
“We don’t need alcohol at all,” he said in response to a question from Commissioner David Smith, a restaurateur. “I believe alcohol makes the problem.”
Khezam told the commissioners that incorrect assumptions previously were made about what the business could do, but that it has operated within regulations since then.
“We don’t have problems,” he said. “We try to follow the rules.”
Aaron Grisdale, the city’s director of zoning and inspections, said the city “hasn’t had cause for concern to visit the property” in months and is unaware of any problems there, including complaints from neighbors.
Commission Chairman Dave Shore asked if the police had been called to the establishment often. Grisdale said he wasn’t aware of a high number of calls but would get data by next week’s meeting.
In February, City Council voted 5-4 to deny Ali Baba’s a nightclub permit and amend its existing CUP to allow it to sell alcohol. President Jeffrey Buettner, Mayor Elizabeth Minor, Vice-Mayor Milt McInturff and councilors John Hill and Les Veach voted against approval.
The councilors’ objection seemed to be that three infractions of existing permit conditions had occurred — offering late-night music without a nightclub permit, serving food without a Health Department license and charging for events without an admissions-tax license.
In recent years, the council has denied initial nightclub-permit requests made by Milano’s Ristorante & Bar (2009) and T.C. Tootie’s Historic Sports Pub (2011) because both businesses had code compliance or licensing issues and/or significant police activity at their establishments.
However, after both restaurants complied with City Code and required less police attention for six months or fewer, each was granted a permit.
Attending the meeting at Rouss City Hall were Chairman Dave Shore, Vice-Chairman William Wiley and commissioners Jennifer Beatley, Carroll “Beau” Correll Jr., Kevin McKannan, Stephen Slaughter Jr. and David Smith.
— Contact Vic Bradshaw at firstname.lastname@example.org