‘We don’t want any more fines’: Winnipeg hookah lounge fined $15K for public health order violations

WINNIPEG — A Winnipeg hookah lounge has found itself in an increasingly familiar position: being fined $2,542 for failing to comply with public health orders banning the use of hookahs. 

7 Arabian Dreams Restaurant and Hookah Lounge has been handed six tickets for the same issue since August first. 

“We got a fine of $12,500,” said 7 Arabian Dreams owner Amanjot Singh Bajwa. “And then, again, we got a fine. So now we have a fine of over $15,000 in total.”

Bajwa said he’s trapped between a rock and a hard place. If he breaks the rules, he gets fined, and when the hookah lounge doesn’t offer hookah, he said business drops by 80 per cent. 

“This COVID-19 — I don’t know when it’s going to finish,” said Bajwa. “Maybe it takes a year, or maybe it takes two years. So that means we go bankrupt, right?”

7 Arabian Dreams isn’t the only business facing financial problems due to pandemic safety rules.

“The reality is, a restaurant has a very limited amount of space,” said Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association Executive Director Shaun Jeffrey. “With social distancing requirements in place, restaurants are only able to able to operate at that 40 to 50 per cent capacity.”

With patio season coming to an end, the MRFA worries up to 40 per cent of restaurants may close. 

“The reality is that we need our government to come to the table with some real industry specific programs, because it’s our industry that has been significantly deteriorated.”

Any help from the province will not include allowing businesses to simply break the rules.

“The prohibition on the use of hookahs was ordered by the Chief Provincial Public Health Officer based on the risk of transmission of Covid-19,” the province said in a statement to CTV News. “Public Health is looking at actions that may be taken if businesses continue to permit the use of hookahs in contravention of the public health emergency orders.”

Bajwa said he isn’t allowing hookah in the lounge, and he’ll try to get the rules changed. 

“We don’t want any more fines,” said Bajwa. 

If the restrictions remain in place, Bajwa said his business will fold.