Fort Bend

Sugar Land ordinance aims to prevent new hookah bars from opening in the city

While the city’s development code still allows new hookah bars to open, patrons won’t be able to smoke in tobacco bars that open after Dec. 31, 2023

Signs are displayed at a smoke shop in Park Ridge, Ill., Monday, Aug 14, 2023.
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
Signs are displayed at a smoke shop in Park Ridge, Ill., Monday, Aug 14, 2023.

Officials approved changes to Sugar Land's indoor smoking ordinance to ban smoking in retail tobacco stores and any new tobacco bars that open after the end of this year.

Although the city's development code still allows for hookah bars, the ordinance will more or less prevent new ones from opening next year, as patrons won't be allowed to smoke inside them.

The city previously amended its code of ordinances to prohibit smoking in bars that opened after 2007, effectively banning new cigar bars.

Sugar Land city council member Stewart Jacobson says hookah lounges weren't really considered when the city created an extensive smoking ordinance in the past.

"When we made the ordinance years ago, hookah lounges were not really contemplated," he said.

But recently, Jacobson said, residents seem to have taken more of an interest in hookah bars.

"We have a very ethnically diverse population here in Sugar Land so there are a lot of folks here who like to take advantage of hookah bars," he said. "And so there was a lot of chatter."

The city's indoor smoking ordinance includes exemptions for country clubs, stage areas of theaters when smoking is part of the performance and certain events that have received approval from city council to allow smoking.

"We do not like to be particularly invasive in anybody's life but ... several councils ago, several years ago, we did make the choice to go along with the rest of the world, which is to not have smoking on any public premises," Jacobson said. "And this is just a continuation of that."

Next year, city council will examine changes to the city's development code, which governs where smoke shops, hookah lounges and other tobacco-related businesses are allowed to open and operate.