Archive for November, 2011

Justice Goes Hookah Less

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

For a second time the Justice Village Board voted down an ordinance that could have paved the way for the municipality’s first hookah lounge. After numerous discussions and debate the long awaited vote was finally taken. Trustee Ed Rusch Jr. had even sought out community input in a forum similar to that of a public hearing. At the October 10 meeting, in a 5-1 vote mayor Kris Wasowicz’s plan to allow for the use of tobacco clubs and other free standing smoking establishments was defeated. Mayoral ally trustee Melanie Kuban was the only dissenter.
Attending the meeting was a dwindling group of concerned residents and political factions whose oppositions to the plan appeared to have died down a bit from levels seen earlier on. The proposal had even been made into an election issue. One audience member made a video recording. The board maintained its professionalism through out the proceedings.
After the vote was taken some of the group applauded. However, after the meeting some people questioned if public health and safety were really the issue for everyone. Privately one board member questioned if race motivated some of the opposition toward the hookah and the Arabic family that wanted to open the lounge. The pros for changing the Justice law and open the door to indoor retail smoking were not strong enough to satisfy most of the board trustees. So for now, the village still has a stronger law on the books than the State of Illinois and there will be no hookah.
The mayor pushed to adopt an Illinois law giving municipalities the power to allow indoor smoking in certain types of businesses. This state law was adopted as a compromise amendment after Illinois passed its ban on smoking tobacco in all public places. That law would have put businesses such as pipe shops, cigar clubs as well as hookah lounges out of business. If passed in Justice, the changes in the ordinance would allow smoking in freestanding structures, where tobacco related products make up at least 80 percent of gross retail sales. In addition to those stipulations, a business cannot hold a liquor or restaurant license. A business cannot be considered a retail tobacco store with indoor smoking if it does not meet these provisions.