Armed with protest signs, patrons, employees and the owners of the Twilight Hookah Lounge crowded the Fullerton City Council chamber Wednesday to contest locals who are calling for its closure.
The hearing was to decide if the hookah hotspot on Chapman Avenue would have its lease changed based on allegations that the establishment contributed to public disturbances.
Members of the community voiced their concerns and complaints while the lounge itself had more than a dozen supporters.
The residents of the neighboring area have made complaints about the hookah lounge for the past two years and have once again claimed that the effects are detrimental to the property and health of the surrounding neighborhood.
Heather Allen, planning manager for the city of Fullerton, declared at the hearing commenting that the Twilight Hookah Lounge was in violation of five different conditions pertaining to noise, public health as well as the installation of lights without a permit.
“Specifically, the two reasons we’ve identified for revocation in terms of the conditions that were being violated in accordance with the municipal code is contrary to condition No. 24 is the hookah lounge is being operated and is detrimental to the public health welfare,” said Allen. “Also condition No. 25 the hookah lounge has sustained three or more complaints within a 12-month period.”
Fullerton resident Randy Dorn voiced his concerns with the smoke leaving the lounge and its impact on public health. Dorn also said the hookah lounge has outgrown the area and is now too small to house a business of that magnitude.
“(Fullerton City Council) never saw this venue grow into this size of an establishment,” said Dorn. “I think if you had, you would have said, ‘This is not the place for you guys. We gotta get you guys down there on Harbor Boulevard, somewhere where there’s a larger venue.’”
Dorn’s complaints detailed his sleeping habits and that, previously, the patrons of the hookah lounge would loiter on his property and the property of his neighbors. He also claimed the constant coming and going of Twilight patrons along with noise complaints and the trash left in his neighborhood is a “public nuisance.”
Mary Sporman, a Fullerton resident, said the smoke produced at the hookah lounge has caused her physical ailments.
“Yes, we do smell charcoal in our home, and as the evening continues; my eyes will start watering, my nose will be running,” said Sporman. “I have a letter from my doctor, my asthma was diagnosed at the beginning when the hookah lounge moved in and has consistently gotten worse.”
Fullerton Police Captain George Crum spoke at length about the various calls and crimes that had taken place in the surrounding area. However, Crum would not give a definitive statement that the crimes correlated with the hookah lounge patrons.
“They could be patronizing (a nearby tattoo parlor) for all I know,” said Crum. “They could be patronizing Michaelangelo’s. There are several businesses these people could be patronizing. Can I sit here and say it’s all specific to hookah lounge? Absolutely not.”
Co-owner Nadia Abdullah spoke at the meeting with tears in her eyes, saying the hookah lounge was their “bread and butter” and that she and her husband Shawn have tried their best to work with the community.
“In 2008, the problems started, and we tried fixing it to the best of our knowledge,” said Nadia Abdullah. “I don’t know what else to say. We’ve changed our coals as smell goes. We’ve spent a lot more money on it because we’re trying to make the neighbors happy.”
At the time of press, the City Council had still not come to a decision on the fate of the Twilight Hookah Lounge.