Judge orders closure of Snohomish Co.'s first hookah lounge

EVERETT, Wash. -- A Snohomish County Superior Court judge ordered the county's first and apparently only hookah lounge to cease operation and its owners to pay an $89,100 fine for violating the state's Smoking in Public Places Law.

The Hideout Hookah Lounge opened on Everett's Wetmore Avenue in early 2012, offering customers the opportunity to smoke flavored tobacco out of glass pipes filled with water.

But, the business ran afoul of the state's Smoking in Public Places Law, which bans smoking in and near public businesses.

After numerous warnings and an official order to stop allowing smoking in the business, the Snohomish Health District filed a lawsuit against the Hideout Hookah Lounge in June.

On Feb. 26, a Snohomish County Superior Court judge ordered the lounge to stop allowing indoor smoking and levied a fine of $89,000, or $100 per day per violation, against its owners.

According to the Snohomish Health District, hookah lounges attract young people to a dangerous habit.

"Smoke is smoke," Health Officer Dr. Gary Goldbaum said in his testimony. "Hookah tobacco may smell sweet and be cheaper than cigarettes, but it is no less harmful or addictive."

In a press release, Goldbaum said he is glad the ruling makes it clear hookah lounges are not a potential business opportunity.

Pierce County has also recently attempted to crack down on hookah lounges in court.

Meanwhile, hookah lounges in King County and elsewhere have required customers to pay for memberships, turning the lounges into private clubs to skirt the public-business portion of the law.