Updated March 26 at 12:27am

Fines can’t snuff out hookah sales

By Patrick Anderson
PBN Staff Writer

First it was VIP bottle service. Now it’s hookahs.

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Fines can’t snuff out hookah sales


First it was VIP bottle service. Now it’s hookahs.

In its latest push to tame unruly nightlife, the city this winter cracked down on bars and restaurants serving Middle Eastern-style water pipes in violation of state anti-smoking laws.

Since a warning letter announcing the start of the crackdown last November, police have brought violations against eight establishments in difference parts of the city, according to Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare.

Raids have seen pipes seized by police and fines issued by the city Board of Licenses.

But although it may have slowed hookah business, the city’s push hasn’t ended the practice.

Numerous establishments still advertise hookahs and many, if not already serving, are pushing for exemptions to begin again.

“The city came in about a month ago and I stopped serving [hookah] for a few days, but everyone else kept serving,” said Joe Karam, owner of Opa restaurant on Atwells Avenue in the Federal Hill neighborhood. “I spoke to my lawyer and he said we have the proper tobacco license and ventilation system, so we continue serving.”

Gianfranco Marrocco, owner of several Federal Hill nightspots – including two designated smoking lounges – expects the effects of the crackdown to wane with time.

“What I have seen with some neighbors is they stopped when the enforcement started, but it impacted them so much now they are starting again,” said Marrocco, who has clashed with the city over a number of nightlife issues, including the legal fight over VIP bottle service last year. (In November, a Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the city, and against the R.I. Department of Business Regulation, saying any VIP bottle service is illegal.)

“First bottle service and then hookah. I don’t know what is next,” Marrocco said. “They will make Providence a dry town. I don’t know how much less business-friendly the city can become.”

While Marrocco’s Smoke Lounge cigar bar and Skarr Hookah Lounge are designated smoking bars, a third property, Amici Sports Bar and Grill, was cited by the city for a hookah violation this winter.

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Obviously, Mr. Marrocco interests do not include being a high class restauranteur, but is into money grubbing at its worse., Maybe this explains why his once terrific Meditearrano has gone down hill on quality. Serving quality food in a quality environment is not high priority with him as his property on De Pasquale Square - La Dolce Vita - clearly shows. The place is a mess - gaudy signs, unkempt outdoor area with weeds and debris every where. A tour inside denotes uncleanliness which why I never go there for Sunday breakfast any more. Mr. Marrocco doesn't know how to hire people especially his hostesses -they offer a poor first impression, poorly dressed, and most irritating - rude and lacking in manners or a welcoming behavior.

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