Hookah bill fails, fight with Rapid City to continue in court - KOTA Territory News

Hookah bill fails, fight with Rapid City to continue in court

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South Dakota legislators have thrown out an amendment to the statewide smoking ban that would have restricted hookah businesses.
 
But that won't stop litigation filed against the city of Rapid City.

Alcohol once accounted for 20 percent of sales at Ifrits Hookah Lounge in Rapid City.

"We are fighting to get our alcohol license back, but the biggest issue is our right to have a license and serve alcohol," said C.J. Desmond, co-owner of Ifrits Hookah Lounge.

The owners of Ifrits Hookah Lounge call the death of Senate bill 114 a victory bringing them closer to getting that revenue back in their wallet.

"The legislation ran into a buzz saw. We ended up losing support on the floor," said Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker. 

Legislators cited pending litigation between the city and Ifrits as a reason to step out of the fight.

"We believe the smoking ban, as written, doesn't apply to our establishment," said Desmond.

"I can't imagine it. If they win the lawsuit, I will take a hookah pipe into the state capitol and make a point as to whether or not this is smoking," said Steve Allender, Rapid City Police Chief.

While state Legislators may have passed the issue along to the court system, it's the cost of that litigation that will be passed along to the Rapid City taxpayer.

"I don't' think it's fair the taxpayers of Rapid City have to pay for this. I'm sorry to put them in that position, but we have to defend our constitutional rights," said Desmond.

"I was hoping the legislation would pass to define hookah smoke as smoke and save our city and the state from these types of frivolous lawsuits," said Kooiker.

Both sides are confident their perspective will be validated in the courtroom.

"We're business owners creating jobs. We contribute to the economic development in downtown Rapid City. A lot of people may not know what we do or like what we do, but we're not doing anything illegal,"said Desmond.

"No one's investment into the economy can justify doing something harmful or wrong to other citizens," said Allender.

Pre-trial hearings in this case could begin as soon as the end of the month. No trial date has been set.

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