Farmington Hills considers smoking lounge licensing

Farmington Hills council members had plenty of questions Monday about proposed ordinances designed to curb police incidents at smoking lounges and some entertainment venues.

Police Chief Jeff King said during a study session that officers have responded to multiple calls at hookah lounges including shots fired, large fights, a stabbing, stolen vehicles in parking lots, and vehicle pursuits. He said “old style” licensing ordinances would “give us a stronger ability to enforce and combat the crime and violence occurring at some of these locations.”

King said owners have been cooperative. While metal detectors stop patrons from bringing weapons inside, trouble starts once they’re in the parking lots.

Why Farmington Hills? 

Council member Valerie Knol wondered about the “root cause,” and whether people were coming from the Farmington Hills area or other communities.

“Why Farmington Hills? What’s the issue?” she asked.

King said police have identified people from across metro Detroit, but haven’t been able to pin down specific causes. For example, he said, they’ve arrested people with stolen firearms and found no one had fired the guns at the scene.

In two cases, King said, patrons who paid a $50 cover charge and a $50 table charge demanded their money back after being ejected. Other cities have had issues with hookah lounges; Southfield experienced a drive-by homicide.

One owner, King said, ran afoul of ordinances in another city before opening a business in Farmington Hills. Two other lounges are start-ups with no previous history.

Mini-golf, go-kart tracks, arcades

Large fights, including one that required mutual aid from other cities, prompted the second draft ordinance to license mini-golf, go-kart tracks, and arcades.

Joppich reviewed both drafts, which have similar points. Both require existing businesses to register within 90 days, identify owners and managers, maintain a security plan, allow officials to inspect the premises, and close daily between 12 a.m. and 8 a.m.

Other conditions prohibit loitering in parking lots and require all patrons to leave at closing time. The ordinance would also allow the police chief to close a business long enough to regain control in case of an imminent threat to public safety.

The city clerk reviews all applications for the permits, which owners would renew each year.

“Everybody’s on notice what you need to do, what you need to put on your application, and why you might be denied,” Joppich said.


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