Tuesday afternoon in Pierre, the state legislature took up the issue of hookah lounges and how they fit into the smoking ban with Senate Bill 114.
In its original form, the bill included the water pipes with other forms of smoking and would ban hookah establishments from serving alcohol. But a revision to the legislation in committee turned its original intent upside down.
Hookahs are hot in Rapid City, where two businesses provide the water pipes to customers. A bill debated by the state house Wednesday was intended to clear the air about how hookahs fall under the smoking ban as it relates to serving alcohol.
"I feel our business model is very similar to the cigar bar business model. We just serve a different product," Ifrits Hookah Lounge's co-owner Brian Winckel said.
In committee last week, the bill was amended to include hookah lounges to the exemption that allows cigar bars to serve alcohol. It was a point of contention as the full House took up the issue.
"This is a bad amendment. It opens up a large exemption in the law," Rep. Scott Craig said.
"We almost have this very same exemption for cigar bars here in South Dakota," Rep. Stace Nelson said.
While the exemption was defeated, returning the bill to its original form, that wasn't the only problem many legislators found with the bill.
"This matter is currently in the courts in the State of South Dakota, and here we are being asked once again to weigh in and determine winners and losers before the judge issues a decision," Rep. Brock Greenfield said.
Ifrits Hookah Lounge is currently engaged in litigation with the city of Rapid City over the issue of serving alcohol to customers. It caused a majority of legislators to hold off on passing the bill.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, there are 33 yays, 36 nays.
"I think that the decision was fair. We're still going to get our day in court and that's what we've been prepared for all along," Winckel said.
Court proceedings in the hookah lounge's case against the city of Rapid City are slated to begin later this month.