Richard Jones discusses a daily construction plan with Aposha Manager Nicholas Shannon. Jones is waiting on a liquor license approval from the Troy City Council before the business can open.
Richard Jones discusses a daily construction plan with Aposha Manager Nicholas Shannon. Jones is waiting on a liquor license approval from the Troy City Council before the business can open.

Archived Story

Ordinance amendment could stop two businesses before they start

Published 11:00pm Friday, May 3, 2013

The May 14 Troy City Council meeting could see a packed house as council members debate whether or not to ban the use of water pipes for smoking tobacco in public places.

Council Johnny Witherington says he will introduce an amendment to the city’s smoking ordinance that would ban the use of water pipes in public places. He said people would still be able to smoke water pipes in their homes or other non-public places.

“The mayor allowed me to ask the city attorney to draw up an amendment to the city’s smoking ordinance that includes banning the use of water pipes,” Witherington said. “It is my hope that this is one of the first things on our agenda and we take immediate action on the amendment.”

City Councilwoman Dejerilyn King Henderson doesn’t share Witherington’s sentiment, particularly since it affects the initiative of young entrepreneurs.

“When you have young men, particularly African-American male entrepreneurs, willing to invest, not only their time, but also their money and energy to improve the City of Troy, then I am supportive,” Henderson said. “I plan on sticking up for them and supporting their efforts. That includes the water pipe smoking.”

At the heart of the matter are two sets of business owners who want to open establishments where patrons could gather to smoke hookah, using water pipes. A hookah pipe is a single- or multi-stemmed instrument used for smoking flavored tobacco called shisha in which the vapor or smoke is passed through a water basin before inhalation. Traditionally, the tobacco is shared by a group of people sitting around the pipe.

Business owners see their ventures as filling an entertainment niche for young professionals in the community. Some community leaders, though, believe the businesses would be a health hazard and it is the city council’s job to protect Troy residents.

Aposha LLC already has applied for a liquor license for a business at 207 Love Street in Troy’s historic downtown area. The city council has twice postponed decision on the license while members further discussed the impact the business would have on the community, and business owner Richard Jones said he delayed a planned soft opening on May 3 while he awaits the city’s response.

Jones, a former Troy University student, and said he remembers how so many students would leave the city each weekend to visit places such as Auburn and Tuscaloosa.

“The downtown area has so much potential,” Jones said. “I wanted to come back to somewhere I had roots. And I thought what better way to bring students downtown and keep them local than with a hookah lounge and cafe.”

Jones said his hope is that his business also will provide an avenue for other downtown businesses to be more successful.

“Generating more business downtown creates business for everybody,” Jones said. “All it is going to do is help everyone grow and generate revenue.”

Although there has been no liquor license application made to the City of Troy, the city council is aware of another businessman making plans for a hookah lounge in Troy. Collegiate Hookah would be located in the Old Campus Deli location on George Wallace Drive.

While the idea of a hookah lounge is new to Troy, larger cities, including Montgomery and Atlanta, have multiple establishments where patrons visit to smoke flavored tobacco.

“My business partner and I have been discussing this since we were in school,” Jones said. “I feel this is the right time. We have a solid business plan. I have been working with the Chamber of Commerce and have met with several local business owners. No one downtown has given me any negative feedback.”

Henderson said she had been a little skeptical of the business at first, but once she saw Jones and his partner “had a plan and were serious entrepreneurs,” she changed her mind.

“I don’t care what anybody else on the council says,” Henderson shared. “They have their opinion and I have mine. Mine is that these young men don’t present the type of character that is going to allow for anything that is illegal or is going to be out of control. They are not going to be running a honkeytonk.”

Henderson said she doesn’t see how the city council has any right to determine how a person can smoke tobacco. She said she doesn’t see a difference between smoking tobacco in a cigarette, in a pipe or in a water pipe.

“To me it is the same thing as going to the bar and smoking cigarettes,” Henderson said.

Witherington disagrees.

“I’ve shared statistics in two public meetings, information that is provided by several different health organizations,” Witherington said. “This is a serious public health concern and I feel strongly about it and passionate about it.”

Witherington said he sees nothing wrong with the cafe and bar aspect of Jones’ business and he’d likely approve a liquor license for Aposha if hookah smoking was not a part of the application.

“Allowing this type business activity to operate in Troy, so close to our university and school kids does not serve the public interest and fails to protect our young people who do not often understand the long term impact of poor choices on their health,” Witherington said. “Based on research data I’ve seen, hookah pipes produce 100 times more tar, four times more nicotine and 11 times more hydrocarbons than does a single cigarette,” Witherington said. “I think the university was right in banning it on campus and I think it is the right thing for the city to prohibit this kind of thing.”

Jones said, as of now, he’s moving forward with the project he has in place.

“It’s a new concept,” Jones said. “We know that people have to get a better understanding and see how supportive we are of the area. Anytime where you are the first person to bring something new, there will be a little kickback. I just got caught in the fire because I was the first up.”

Troy’s City Council meeting begins at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 14, at City Hall.

 

  • April Ludgate

    I’m in support of this venture, but it has nothing to do with the color of these guys, unlike Ms. Henderson. “PARTICULARLY” African-American males? Why not be in support of ANY young entrepreneur trying something–gasp–NEW in this stuffy excuse for a town? Thanks to locals like these guys, we have a chance at a breath of fresh air locally. And using the word “honkey”? It’s quoted, y’all.

    Back to the other point: We citizens are competent enough to avoid hookah or not based on our personal health choices. Either get a grip and own up towhat this really is about, or ban alcohol and fast food, too. :/

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  • CG55

    For 1 why do you have to point out the color of people? When you do that don’t ever wonder why there is so much racism. 2 if it has nothing to do with Troy University or Sports Plex you can hang it up. If you go to this business I’m sure it’s your choice if you smoke or not. People can not stand change or advancement by trying other culture activities in our city. Not everyone is into sports and most in Troy can not afford to attend college. Wake up!! People go out of town to do things because Troy has nothing.

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  • KCTroy

    The mention of race as a determining factor in Ms. Henderson’s opinion about this issue is an indication of how archaic our City Council’s practices are. Are we not at a more evolved level in society today in which we can mention that someone is an entrepreneur without pointing out their race?

    That aside, the real issue here is Troy’s conflicting agendas. On one hand Troy is a college town which has been trying to create entertainment and a sense of culture and community for the younger people drawn to Troy because of the college.

    On the other hand, Troy is trying to maintain its small-town, conservative reputation.

    “Let’s not allow alcohol sales at Troy University football games, but let’s do allow rows and rows of drinking tailgaters outside the stadium gates. Let’s not allow hookahs because it’s dangerous to the public’s health, and yet let’s allow smoking cigarettes in bars.” I have a few words for this type of decision making, and one of them is “hypocrisy”.

    The City of Troy should welcome businesses which attempt to revitalize Troy, “particularly” businesses which have such support from the public due to an obviously spiteful attempt to ban the use of hookahs in public.

    If Mr. Witherington plans to ban the use of hookahs in public to “protect our young people who do not often understand the long term impact of poor choices on their health” then I expect a ban on junk food consumption in public, a ban on fast food, a ban on cigarettes and alcohol, and anything else that might be detrimental to our health.

    Personally, I find it offensive that this man has the nerve to insult people’s intelligence by offering to protect them from hookah smoke. I have no interest in using a hookah, but I have enough sense to realize when someone is taking advantage of their position of power in order to promote a personal agenda.

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  • ohwell

    The City limits only extend so far.

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  • Mook

    Okay, first of all I had never heard of “hookah” until now. Now that I have a better understanding of what hookah is, I would not be opposed to these guys opening their lounge downtown. From what I hear this is legal. However, I do agree with April that either you support it or not reguardless of the race of the person(s) opening the lounge. Although I do agree with what Ms. Henderson is saying, i think. I think she is says because there are so few businesses that are owned by african-americans and especially by african americans men, african american people will tend to support them being there are so few of them. We are in agreement that it shouldn’t have anything to do with the race.
    As far as Mr. Witherington, I agree that it’s no difference than the pines that downtown or the trojan zone that’s across town, i agree with KCTroy this sounds like a case of hypocrisy.

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    • WDM

      You people should get in touch with the mayor or a council member.That is what I have done.I see nothing wrong with it opening,I won’t be going there but if other people do that is up to them.

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      • Mook

        @ WDM, that sound like a great idea, to get in touch with the mayor. I neither will be going but for those who wishes to that’s up to them.

        May need to think about going to the council meeting and voicing your opinion or call the mayor’s office.

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        • WDM

          Mook,we see people all the time complain on this forum about this and that but the only way you can really be heard is like you said go to the council meeting and speak up for what you beleive in or at least get in touch with the mayor or council members,the mayor was glad to hear my input,it may not change a thing but I know I tried.

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  • OldSchoolPike3Worker

    Ya’ll may not be old enough to remember this but there used to be several hookahs on Love Street on any given night.

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    • WDM

      Pike3Worker,you need to look up the word hookah,I am 73 is that old enough.

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  • Advocate

    Old School, it appears you like to joke and make fun of certain ones, as you think it is funny and as you think you are creating a laughing moment, it seems you are just trying to stir the pot, I would ask since you know this of Love Street have you been there to verify this? Also, it must be nice to be able to make comments like this while working, of course saying you work 8-5? If not then I guess this is just your opinion that no one is laughing at. I am sure if you work 8-5 your employer approves of these stirring comments uh? I guess they like your picture that degrades our president to uh? All of your comments come on a racial basis, so what is the problem?

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  • Advocate

    Old School, its ok hun, I wuz just joking with you, you are still the best blogger out there.

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  • Aborted

    I m a bit late posting, but I hope everybody in Troy (Alabama) reads this post. Those hookah pipes look like drug paraphernalia, and most often used for smoking dope. Why would an African American male promote smoking or the sale of any device that will ultimately be used for smoking dope?
    I say this is another form of “black on black crime”. He and his partner need to get their black azz’s somewhere and sit down. Stupid black men do something that will help your people. Open a big fitness center for seniors or a health food store.

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  • Aborted

    I don’t’ care who doesn’t like my post. This type of establishment will not help anybody. If they sale dope pipes, they’ll probably sale dope. Let’s not be oblivious. The U.S. is spending billions of dollars to warn folks about smoking cigarettes, and to combat drugs, but these guys want to open up a shop that promotes smoking. Find something better to do with your time. We need to move forward and promote healthier living not backwards young black brothers.

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  • Aborted

    WDM, thanks for correcting me, but I’m still opposed. I don’t think that an African American male or female ought to promote anything that is unhealthy for his/her race.
    African Americans are the minority in Troy, but we have a higher percentage of folks in jail, on drugs, and on welfare.
    I applaud you’ll (my black brothers) for leaning forward in the fox hole, but please rethink your ideas. Do something that will bring black students and white students together. Do something that will empower your people. Open a fitness center for senior citizens in Troy that serves all surrounding counties. Open a center for teenage males whereas you teach them life skills, discipline, African American history, criminal codes, etc.

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  • Aborted

    Get involved with the teenage boys-youth. Don’t promote something that is widely used to smoke dope.

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  • 2cents

    Are you kidding me Blood? That makes about as much sense as banning pressure cookers, because someone could build a bomb outof one.

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    • Aborted

      Two cents, look around Troy. Do you not see the poverty, the drug addicts, or the soaring crime rates in the black communities? They want to further destroy the black communities? I care about the plight of the black families. The idea that these men of color wants to sell whisky and dope pipes to African Americans alienates me.
      The idea that these men of color want to sell whisky and dope pipes to African Americans alienates me. Troy needs a big center for black boys and men. White folks are counseling and mentoring our black kids while black folks like the “hookah brothers” search for ways to further destroy them. Instead of selling whisky, open a big center for black teens. Teach them to pull up their pants, and to wear bow ties. Tell them that T shirts are under garments. Do that first!

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      • iwonder

        Blood,
        I wonder could witnessing two “men of color” working to be successful be an inspiration to the kids of the “black community”. I know in the “white community” witnessing the amount of dedication and hard work these two young men have put forth is an inspiration. You have a wonderful idea wanting a “big center for black boys and men” along with all local boys and men and I think having inspirational and honorable men mentor these boys and men would be a noble cause regardless of color. Sad to say that neither community centers or volunteering in such places has proven to be very profitable so these community centers and volunteers seek the assistance of local tax dollars and local business donations. Blood, two men, regardless of color are taking a huge chance to bring something new and different to our community. If they are good business men and operate legally they will succeed and the community will benefit in actual dollars to fund such things as community centers and if they do poor business and are less than legit the system that is in place regulates that.
        This issue has two young men that have approached the City for approval in a venture. Not help, just approval and the same city that has formed committees to study downtown revitalization is seeking to change the rules to stop that very revitalization

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        • iwonder

          I guess what I am trying to say is that witnessing someone struggle and fight the good fight for success would carry more weight that great mentor that was nothing more than someone to sorry or lazy to be productive. Blood you could go and help at the Boys Club or maybe if you have accomplished all you set out to accomplish then you could go and lend a hand to the “hooka brothers” to insure their rights don’t get trampled by what appears to be an oppressive and inconsistent move. I assure you that 2 successful young men would do more for this community than starving the success. While you have every right to disagree with the premise of the business, legally when these young men started they were within the law. Can you not see the law/ordinance is being changed just for this? Blood does that not scare you?

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  • Aborted

    I wonder why you are supporting such disservice. Frankly, I am a prohibitionist, and I don’t smoke, or frolic around. Seriously, we have different opinions. I read yours, but I say the “hookah brothers” are going to do more harm than good. Promoting drinking and smoking dope-we have enough of that kind of representation in the African American neighborhoods. Let’s move forward and promote sobriety and education. I’m done with this topic, but remember “I told You’ll”.

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  • Aborted

    I wonder,sometimes laws need to ammended or deleted. I think the city clowncil and/or mayor did the right thing by preposing to stop the useage of dope pipes in public.

    I don’t think this was an attempt to oppress the hookah brothers. The end.

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