The Curry Mile could see a quiet four days as shisha bosses threaten a mass ‘strike’ in protest against the crackdown on indoor smoking.
The Mancunion recently reported on the new campaign launched by Manchester City Council and the NHS promoting the dangers of smoking shisha.
It aimed to raise awareness of the health risks associated with shisha and to make people aware that smoking shisha in an enclosed space, as in many of the Curry Mile bars, is illegal.
But owners of shisha bars and cafes on the Curry Mile, who have been breaching the 2007 national smoking ban, want to prove to the council how vital their businesses are to the local economy in Rusholme.
Outdoor smoking areas must be less than 50 per cent enclosed, meaning that areas with only one side open are breaching the ban.
Eight of the businesses on Wilmslow Road have already been fined a total of nearly £21,000 by Manchester City Council in the last 12 months for indoor smoking, but this has not acted as a deterrent.
Shabir Mughal, Chairman of the Rusholme Traders Association, explained how the shisha bars have created “loopholes” to dodge the fines.
“By the time the process goes through, the ownership of the shisha bar has changed. That’s what they’re struggling with.”
Not fazed by the council’s fines, shisha bosses have decided to hold a meeting with Mr Mughal and members of the council where they will discuss what will happen next.
Mr Mughal explained how he wanted to use this meeting to tell the shisha bosses that “what [they’re] doing is wrong and this is what you should do, and if you obey by these rules we wont bother you, but if you don’t we will come down heavy on you.”
But the shisha bar owners want to use this meeting to suggest some compromises and threaten that if they are not agreed to, they will strike.
But Mr Mughal does not see this as an option: “There is no compromise because they are compromising the law,” he said. “The law is there to stay, it can only be changed in Parliament.”
“We are not against the shisha bars,” he added, “because it’s diversity in the Curry Mile. It’s just that they are breaking the law.”
The compromises that the shisha bar owners are considering include legal changes that would allow them to have smoking rooms with extra strong fans, or to be issued with special ‘smoking licences’ which could be withdrawn if their owners misbehaved.
If these demands are ignored they will consider a four day strike.
Mohammed El-Ghazzeh of shisha bar Cuba Lounge, said: “We want the council to see that Wilmslow Road will be like a ghost town if all the shisha places were closed.”
“To ask people to sit outside in British weather is unrealistic, if they don’t die from the smoke they’ll die from the cold,” he added.
But Mr Mughal does not see this as being a successful protest: “If they want to go on strike they can go on strike because it’s not going to make any difference,” he said.
“I don’t think that there will be any effect. They are trying to show that the place might look derelict but I don’t think so.”
“It will not affect curry houses at all because the customers who come to the shisha bars don’t go to the restaurants anyway,” he added.
“It’s going to hurt their pocket, not ours or anybody else’s.”