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How to Open a Hookah Lounge and Get a Hookah Licence in Ontario

Helping Canadian Businesses Get Licences, Stay Onside And Resolve Their Legal Challenges.

Hookah bars, also known as shisha lounges, have been gaining popularity in Ontario over the past few years. If you own or manage a bar and want to offer hookah service to your customers, you may try to obtain a hookah licence from the Ontario government. However, there IS no licence. Read on to learn more.

Understanding the Hookah Licence Requirements in Ontario

What is a Hookah Licence?

A hookah licence is a permit granted by the government that allows a bar to offer hookah service to its customers. In Ontario there is no provincial or federal licensing system for hookah bars. However, you are regulated by the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, which aims to protect Ontarians from the harms of smoking and second-hand smoke exposure.

Hookah, also known as shisha or waterpipe smoking, has been gaining popularity in recent years, particularly among young adults. It involves burning charcoal to heat up a flavored tobacco mixture, which is then filtered through water and inhaled through a mouthpiece. While some people may view hookah as a safer alternative to cigarette smoking, it is important to note that it still poses significant health risks.

Legal Regulations and Restrictions for Hookah Bars

Hookah bars are subject to numerous legal regulations and restrictions under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act and municipal bylaws. Some of the key restrictions include:

  • Hookahs may not contain tobacco, as tobacco smoking is prohibited in enclosed public places under the Smoke Free Ontario Act.
  • You must abide by your municipality’s bylaws. In Cities like Ottawa and Peterborough, shisha smoking is prohibited indoors. In Toronto, shisha smoking is prohibited in any premises that otherwise requires a restaurant from the city, including bars and restaurants that sell food or drinks.
  • You should ensure patrons must be at least 19 years of age to enter the bar. This is to prevent minors from being exposed to the harmful effects of smoking and second-hand smoke.
  • You must Hookah service must only be offered in designated, enclosed smoking areas. This is to prevent smoke from spreading to non-smoking areas and exposing others to second-hand smoke.
  • Bars must regularly maintain and clean their hookah equipment to meet health and safety standards. This is to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and ensure that patrons are not exposed to harmful chemicals or toxins.
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It is important for hookah bar owners and patrons to understand and comply with these regulations to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone involved. By following these guidelines, hookah bars can continue to offer their services while minimizing the risks associated with smoking and second-hand smoke exposure.

Preparing Your Bar for Hookah Service

Designing a Hookah Lounge Area

One of the key factors in offering successful hookah service is creating a comfortable and inviting space for your customers. This may involve designing a special lounge area with comfortable seating, mood lighting, and Middle Eastern-inspired decor. Consider working with a professional interior designer or decorator to help you create a space that reflects your bar’s unique brand and atmosphere.

Ensuring Proper Ventilation and Air Quality

Because hookah smoking involves burning charcoal and inhaling smoke, it is very important to ensure proper ventilation and air quality in your bar’s smoking area. This may involve installing special HVAC systems, exhaust fans, or air purifiers to remove smoke and pollutants from the air. Be sure to regularly test the air quality in your smoking area to ensure it meets health and safety standards.

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Selecting Quality Hookah Equipment and Supplies

The quality of your hookah equipment and supplies can have a major impact on the overall experience of your customers. Invest in high-quality hookahs, shisha tobacco, and accessories, and be sure to regularly maintain and clean your equipment to ensure it is functioning properly and meets health and safety standards.

Training Staff on Hookah Service and Safety

To provide excellent hookah service and ensure compliance with regulations, it is important to properly train your bar staff. This may involve providing training on hookah equipment and accessories, tobacco flavours and preparation, and health and safety protocols for maintaining adequate ventilation and cleanliness in the smoking area.

Maintaining Compliance with Hookah Licence Regulations

Regular Inspections and Licence Renewals

Once you have obtained your hookah licence, it is important to regularly maintain compliance with regulations to avoid being charged with provincial or municipal offences. Public health units in Ontario conduct regular inspections of hookah bars to ensure they are following all legal requirements, so it is important to maintain a clean and safe environment for your customers.

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Staying Updated on Changes to Hookah Regulations

The legal regulations surrounding hookah bars are subject to change, so it is important to stay updated on any new laws or restrictions that may affect your business. Attend industry events or workshops to stay informed about the latest news and trends.

Addressing Potential Health and Safety Concerns

Although hookah smoking is not technically illegal in Ontario, it can still pose health and safety concerns for both customers and employees. To address these concerns, be sure to regularly maintain and clean your hookah equipment, provide proper ventilation and air quality in the smoking area, and strictly enforce age limits and non-smoking areas within your bar.

By following these guidelines, you can offer a unique and enjoyable experience for your customers while ensuring compliance with Ontario’s legal and health regulations. Remember to stay informed, maintain proper documentation and training, and provide excellent service to maintain a successful and thriving hookah bar.

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