Fullerton Planning Commission brought down the gavel Wednesday on a final decision to revoke the conditional use permit for the Twilight Hookah Lounge on Chapman Avenue in Fullerton.
The decision was made during a committee meeting where the sole subject of the night was the Twilight Hookah Lounge and the businesses’ violation of its conditional use permit.
The Planning Commission voted 4-3 in favor of revocation, with a stay in motion to allow the current owners to have time to look for a new location for Twilight Hookah. The stay will allow the hookah hot spot to remain at its current location until May 31, 2013.
During the past few months, the lounge’s lease has been in jeopardy due to constant neighborhood complaints of noise, litter and smell.
Yet the business was not without its support with employees and loyal customers taking their concerns to City Hall to keep the hookah lounge open, declaring it an institution for friendly gatherings.
During the discussion between committee members, Commissioner David Musante compared the Twilight Hookah Lounge problems akin to the problems that Fullerton had in the past with local bars serving alcohol.
Musante was in favor of giving Twilight Hookah three months to fix the problems at hand, citing the need for a good business in Fullerton, yet he also cried foul on how long Twilight Hookah violated the conditional use permit.
“The most sensible thing to do would be continue this for three months and at the end of that three months if things have not improved I would vote to revoke,” said Musante.
Musante even tried reasoning a motion to keep the Twilight Hookah Lounge for “three months,” he said. “Besides, it’s the Christmas season,” he added.
Commissioner Peter Gambino was in favor of the revocation of Twilight Hookah’s permit on the grounds that the business has had opportunities in the past to adhere to the city’s conditions and they have not been met.
“I spent a lot of time thinking about this and I think the big concern that I have as Commissioner (Kathleen) Shanfield had pointed out, that this has been going on for quite some time,” said Gambino. “Here we are, I guess, four years later and it seems as though the complaints are the same.”
Gambino also noted that Twilight Hookah had outgrown the neighborhood and the result of their success is what pushes them to look for a new location for business. His decision was based on the need for more space away from a residential area so that the business could not be considered a nuisance.
Commissioner Kathleen Shanfield also agreed with Gambino to vote in favor of revocation since not only has the lounge been in violation of their permit, but the business has become a nuisance to the neighbors of the business.
“It has gone on so long and I know the burden of proof is with the city and we’re looking at two conditions and I do feel that operating the business has been a nuisance in terms of smoke and the parking,” said Shanfield. “And looking at the evidence that we were given there were certainly more than three complaints in a twelve month period. So I’m going to have to side with the city on this one.”
Chairman Scott Lansburg was concerned about losing a business that was catered to the youth that was also alcohol free. However, Lansburg also mentioned that the employees of Twilight Hookah and the public comments made on their behalf were only comments made toward the friendliness of the business, not future plans on fixing problems with parking and odor.
“The evidence from your clientele was mostly about how great of a people you are and you treat them like family,” said Lansburg. “But they didn’t give me any evidence that once they leave that there isn’t problems happening in the neighborhood.”
Even though the decision would mean that Twilight Hookah Lounge must leave its current location by May 31, 2013, co-owner Nadia Abdullah was optimistic since she and her husband Hishan have been looking into relocating the hookah lounge.
“Actually we’re very happy because we have found a new location,” said Abdullah. “The six months that they gave us is a good time to get everything in order with the city.”
Abdullah mentioned that the lounge would continue its business elsewhere, since she felt the neighborhood behind the lounge would continue to complain if Twilight Hookah stayed at its current location.
“It’s better for everyone if we leave the old location so we don’t go through this again,” Abdullah said. “We have neighbors that are just going to keep on complaining.”