Grand Rapids Hookah Lounge Closing Due to ‘Harassment’ and ‘Racism’, Owners Say
A hookah bar in Eastown is shutting down and the owners say it's not by choice.
Eastown Hookah Lounge in Dispute with City of Grand Rapids
Eastown Hookah Lounge is located at 1522 Wealthy St SE in Grand Rapids.
If you've never visited a hookah bar, it's a place where people gather to smoke flavored tobacco from hookah, which are water pipes.
Eastown Hookah Lounge was opened in 2005 by Emad Shatara. He later opened another lounge in Kalamazoo near Western Michigan University, according to Awesome Mitten.
However, in April 2021, Eastown Hookah Lounge announced they were under new management.
On July 30th, 2022, Eastown Hookah Lounge shared a post to Facebook saying they were dealing with "harassment and racism" from nearby businesses, the landlord, and the City of Grand Rapids.
Hi everyone I am a small business owner (hookah business) we play all kind of music mainly hip hop top 40s my customers love it but unfortunately my ethnicity (Moroccan) and my religion made some neighbors and the Eastown community association around our business control our business even the landlord he said that our music brings dangerous people and told us to not play hip hop and also don’t want us to open passed 2 even though we don’t serve alcohol. They closed all doors I am reaching out to just be heard I just need it to be shared my voice is small compared to yours I am dealing with harassment and racism from other businesses around me the landlord and the city.
Thanks for your time please help share this and thank you again.
In May 2022, MLive reported that the City of Grand Rapids sent a zoning complaint to Mohamed Abdulrahman and Jihane Rgabi, the owners of Eastown Hookah Lounge, saying the establishment was in violation of the city's zoning code by "hosting live entertainment, dancing" and "operating as a night club".
According to MLive,
Eastown Community Association board members say the hookah lounge has stayed open until 4 a.m. on some weekends, providing a spot where patrons could continue to party after nearby bars close.
Is Eastown Hookah Lounge Closed?
In an update to Facebook July 31, Eastown Hookah Lounge says the location on Wealthy St. is permanently closed "definitely not by choice".
We have been fighting to keep the doors open for a few months now but when the city, the landlord and the community are constantly fighting back, there isn’t much room for winning and it becomes one sided.
This was not a management issue nor a safety issue. It was plain and simple a target on our backs. We were asked to not play hip hop, we were told to not have live entertainment, we were asked to turn the hookah lounge into a cigar lounge amongst other requests that we did not want to stand for. We are a hookah lounge and will always operate as such. Our priority has always been our customers and creating a safe space where one can come unwind, study, celebrate and just hang out.
However, owners say "this is not goodbye" and that they'll be opening a new hookah lounge in another location. They'll be announcing the new hookah lounge "when the time comes".