Smokefree DC is a citizen-based group whose goal is to promote smokefree environments in Washington, DC.

Letter seeking investigation into hookah and cigar bars


April 10, 2013


Dr. Saul Levin

Interim Director, D.C. Department of Health

899 North Capitol Street NE

Washington, DC 20002


Dear Dr. Levin,

We would like to bring your attention to a number of establishments that have opened as hookah or cigar bars in apparent violation of the city’s smokefree workplace law.

Under the Department of Health Functions Clarification Act of 2006,, a business that wants to permit the smoking of tobacco products inside must receive an exemption from the Department of Health. However, according to information on the Department of Health’s website (, which we understand is up to date, these particular establishments are not exempt from the smokefree workplace law, so they appear to be operating illegally.

If illegal behavior goes unchecked, the city is sending a message that it’s okay to blatantly violate a key health and safety law, and we likely will see more hookah and cigar establishments open without the city ensuring that they meet the requirements established by the Council.

Smokefree DC visited several of the establishments on the dates listed below and observed people smoking inside. The establishments, and dates visited, are:

·      Sawah Diner and Lounge, 2222 18th St. NW, Feb. 23

·      Rendezvous, 2226 18th St. NW, Feb. 23

·      Queens Café, 2405 18th St. NW, Feb. 23

·      Bistro 18, 2420 18th  ST. NW, Feb. 23

·      Tangier Lounge and Hookah, 2300 block of 18th St. NW, Feb. 23

·      Civil Cigar Lounge, 5335 Wisconsin Ave NW, March 2

·      Zenobia, 1025 31st St. NW, March 29

·      Prince of the Harbor, 1042 Wisconsin Ave. NW, March 29


In addition, based on photographs on the website of Sahra Lounge at 1200 H St. NE (, it appears that it, too, is violating the law.

Under Section 2105 of the law, certain establishments may permit smoking providing they get a certificate of exemption from the Department of Health. These establishments include retail stores whose primary source of revenue is the sale of tobacco products and accessories (no more than 25 percent of the sales may be from non-tobacco products) and tobacco bars. A tobacco bar is defined as a restaurant, tavern, brew pub, club or nightclub that generates 10 percent or more of its total annual revenue from the onsite sale of tobacco products. (See

The Department of Health is tasked with ensuring that the establishment applying for an exemption meets the revenue requirements spelled out in the law. Establishments must provide documentation to the department and respond to any additional requests the department may have while the application is under review.

We ask that the department investigate the establishments listed above and enforce the law if you deem them in violation.

We appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.



Angela Bradbery

Co-founder, Smokefree DC