Hookah-pipe bar sues French state over smoking ban
Bar owner in eastern France claiming the country's new smoking ban has put it out of businessMETZ, France, January 3, 2008 - A hookah-pipe bar owner in eastern France
is suing the state for damages, claiming the country's new smoking ban has put it out of business, its lawyer said Thursday.
The "Sphinx", set up three years ago in the eastern city of Metz, closed
down on January 1 when a nationwide ban on smoking came into effect in tens of thousands of cafes, restaurants and nightclubs.
It is demanding 60,000 euros (90,000 dollars) in damages, under a French
law allowing compensation for individuals who suffer a prejudice as a result
of policies designed for the public interest.
"My client, whose entire establishment was a smoking room, was forced to
close down to respect a decree taken in the name of public health," said its
lawyer, Xavier Iochum.
Like many of France's estimated 800 hookah-pipe bars, the "Sphinx" offered
Oriental-style water pipes and tea, but no alcohol -- with tobacco sales
providing its core source of income.
Owner Bayoumi El Sayad, a construction worker of Egyptian origin, claims to
have sunk his life savings into the bar. Local authorities have two months to
respond to his request.
Iochum claims there is legal precedent for compensation, that could apply
to all water-pipe bars that opened before the anti-smoking decree was passed
Under France's anti-tobacco legislation, smokers who light up in cafes face
fines of between 68 euros (100 dollars) and 450 euros while business owners
can incur penalties of up to 750 euros for violations.