‘A nuisance attraction:’ Daytona Beach considers changes hookah bar rules to curb crime

Proposal would require hookah bars to apply for extended business hours, close by 2 a.m.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Daytona Beach leaders are looking to make changes at hookah bars and lounges with a new proposal that would force them to close earlier.

City commissioners and police believe it could curb late-night crime, with the rowdy crowds that leave the bars when they close and head to the smoke lounges.

“Unfortunately, they’re a nuisance attraction,” Mayor Derrick Henry said.

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Henry said the changes to hookah lounge regulations can’t come soon enough.

“The reality is we have an image and reputation we’re trying to build and what they’ve been doing and executing over the last year shows without a doubt that they’re contributing to the bad image on Seabreeze,” he said.

The city already changed bar hours to closing by 2 a.m. instead of 4 a.m. earlier this year.

Now, this measure going before the city commission Wednesday night would require the hookah lounges to get extended hour permits to stay open past midnight and shut down by 2 a.m.

The idea was first discussed by Police Chief Jakari Young at the commission meeting on Dec. 7.

“It’s impossible to accurately check all calls for service to determine what can be traced back to the hookah pub and what cannot because it represents a larger issue of allowing crowds to linger outside during early morning hours,” he said.

The chief pointed to a shooting in November where two men were in the Hookah Pub on Seabreeze, left, and shortly after, just before 4 a.m., they got in a fight across the street and one of the men was fatally shot.

“Many of these incidents occur offsite but are related to the crowds and activities that occur at this location,” he said.

Hookah Pub owner, Antwane Gandy, believes it would kill business.

“It would not only hurt the business it would irradicate the hookah industry in Volusia County indefinitely,” he said. “We’re not having brawls spewing out into the streets every other weekend, we’re not having multiple police calls week in and week out.”

He said he has armed security that works it at night, has rarely had problems inside his lounge, and feels like they’re being made into a scapegoat.

“It’s not the venues, it’s people. I think the Daytona Beach Police Department and the venues that are over there need to have a closer relationship,” he said.

Although the commission is discussing it Wednesday night, they will actually make a final vote on this at its Jan. 4 meeting.

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Molly joined News 6 at the start of 2021, returning home to Central Florida.