A few months ago California legislators introduced a bill that would ban the sale of flavored tobacco — including hookah tobacco. Senate Bill 38 would have had a huge impact on Little Arabia District. In fact, dozens of businesses would have shut down.
One of the main attractions of Little Arabia that brings thousands of people to the area is its hookah lounges. Since the 90’s, people have been driving from all over Southern California to hang out at hookah lounges and restaurants that serve hookah. If the bill had passed, the following businesses would have most likely had to shut down: Hidden Cafe, Nubia Cafe, Nara Bistro, Fusion Ultra Lounge, Dream Cafe, Luxor Cafe, Rose Cafe, El Mahroosa Cafe, Al Mokhtar Lounge, and a few others. Many others would have been negatively impacted as well. Hundreds of small businesses across the state would have been impacted or shut down as well.
Last month, this issue was brought up during a tour of Little Arabia with Senator Ling Ling Chang. Publisher of this website and Executive Director of the Arab American Civic Council Rashad Al-Dabbagh along with his team members visited several restaurants and shops in the district and spoke to the Senator about the impact the bill would have had on small businesses in her district and the state as a whole. The Senator promised to work on amending the bill to exempt hookah.
In fact, SB 38 has triggered a few people to start a movement. Los Angeles-based hookah lounge owners and flavored-tobacco distributors have come together to create a “hookah chamber” and hired a lobbyist to push back against this bill. The group has been actively advocating against the bill through meetings with Senators and action alerts. Follow them on Facebook here.
Senator Chang spoke to a colleague co-sponsoring the bill about exempting hookah from SB 38. Sen. Ben Allen, who boasted about his love of Little Arabia during a proclamation to recognize April as Arab American Heritage Month, promised that he’d take his name off the bill of it didn’t exempt hookah.
On Thursday May 16, the Senate appropriations committee voted to exempt hookah from the bill and keep Little Arabia alive!