Public Health — Seattle & King County has filed suit against two Seattle restaurants which the agency says have violated the 2005 statewide smoking ban.
The owner of a Belltown hookah lounge — one of two Seattle restaurants sued by health officials last week for repeated violations of a statewide smoking ban — says King County’s enforcement efforts may cost him his livelihood.
“If I lose the hookah business, I’m out. I’m broke,” said Shaher Abuelkhair, owner of Zaina Café, a Middle Eastern restaurant. “I have kids. I have a mortgage. I have a lease. I can’t just stop.”
Zaina and a Fremont bar, The George & Dragon Pub, are the targets of the first lawsuits brought in King County under the law, passed by initiative in 2005, which prohibits smoking in or near the entrances of commercial establishments.
The lawsuits, filed Tuesday, ask a judge to fine each business $100 a day until it complies with the law, which prohibits smoking and requires placement of signs advising customers of the ban.
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James Apa, a spokesman for Public Health — Seattle & King County, said the lawsuits were filed after complaints from the public and because repeated warnings to the two business had failed to halt the smoking.
About 10 restaurants and bars in King County have been fined under the law, and nearly all subsequently took steps to comply, Apa said.
“Our goal is not to fine establishments. We want to help them follow the law,” Apa said. But Zaina and The George & Dragon, he added, “haven’t demonstrated that they are taking steps to follow the law, so, at this point, our next step is going to court.”
An employee at The George & Dragon Pub said no owner or manager was available Saturday to comment on the lawsuit.
According to the suit, the health department received 15 smoking-related complaints from June 2 through Oct. 1 about The George & Dragon Pub.
Health-department workers repeatedly saw customers smoking on an outside patio, and they could smell smoke from the patio while standing in a door to the pub.
Under the state law, smokers must be kept at least 25 feet away from business entrances to prevent smoke from coming inside.
Abuelkhair said he had hoped confining the hookah to an outside courtyard would satisfy health officials, but the lawsuit says health workers saw two employees smoking at a back entrance of the restaurant, and they observed about 50 ashtrays containing cigarette butts on tables on Zaina’s patio.
Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or firstname.lastname@example.org