021613-nws-leghookahs

The state senate has approved a bill that would make it impossible for hookah lounges to sell beer, wine and liquor.

Journal file

PIERRE | A bill aimed squarely at hookah lounges sailed through the state Senate on Thursday.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City, changes the definition of smoking in state law to include the use of water pipes in hookah lounges, a point of contention between the city and its two hookah lounges.

Tieszen brought the bill forward at the request of Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker and Rapid City Police Chief Steve Allender, who testified for the bill Thursday.

On Friday, there was no debate and little opposition when the Senate voted 31-3 for the measure, which now goes to the House, where its sponsor is another Rapid City Republican, Rep. Scott Craig. The bill also has a total of eight Rapid City lawmakers who are co-sponsors.

Voting no Friday were Republican Ryan Maher of Isabel and Democrats Angie Buhl of Sioux Falls and Jim Bradford of Pine Ridge.

Tieszen said everyone seemed to know what smoking meant, even though it somehow wasn’t defined clearly in state law. The hookah lounge issue, where the businesses believe they don't fall under the smoking ban and thus can sell alcohol at their establishments, made it clear that definition had to be addressed, the former police chief said.

“That was before the advent of hookah lounges, which now exist in Rapid City and Mitchell and are being contemplated in other places,” Tieszen said of the current state law.

He said the legislation will provide “a clear definition of smoking” that will allow all establishments to be treated in conformance with the state’s smoking ban.

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Technically, SB114 adds a line to the current indoor smoking ban that says “smoking” or “smoke” means “inhaling, exhaling, or tasting the fumes released through burning or heating tobacco.”

If the bill becomes law, it will likely bring to an end a lawsuit Ifrit's Hookah Lounge filed against the city of Rapid City. The lawsuit seeks to determine if hookah is technically smoking, and thus whether it falls under the statewide smoking ban.

Neither of Rapid City's hookah lounges — Ifrit's and Sahara Nights — sells alcohol, succumbing to city pressure. The city's lone cigar bar, Vino 100, which is affiliated with the the Tinder Box, sells wine and beer and sometimes hookah. The establishment was grandfathered in under the smoking ban.

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Opinion page editor

Opinion editor for the Rapid City Journal.