ASTORIA — Several hookah bars in Queens were among those nabbed in an undercover investigation that found them serving shisha that contained tobacco, a violation of the city's Smoke-Free Air Act, according to the Health Department.
Health inspectors and New York University students were sent to the bars on Nov. 14, when they took samples of the shisha being served — a substance made of herbs, molasses, and often tobacco, according to a press release.
Officials said the samples were tested and came back positive for containing tobacco, a violation of a 2002 city law that bans smoking in workplaces, including restaurants and bars.
Among the 13 hookah bars investigated, four are located in Queens, according to the Health Department: Fayrooz Hookah Lounge and Bar and Melody Lounge, both on Astoria's Steinway Street, and Layla Hookah Lounge and Cloud 9, both on Union Turnpike.
Mike, a manager at Cloud 9 at 179-22 Union Turnpike who did not want to use his last name, said the bar doesn't serve products that contain tobacco. He said they were unaware of Health Department's claims until they read about it in the news.
"We have no idea. We don’t serve tobacco flavors," he said.
Management at the other three Queens bars could not immediately be reached for comment. The Health Department said samples of shisha tested from nine hookah bars in Manhattan were also found to contain tobacco.
"These 13 hookah bars are knowingly flouting the law by serving tobacco-based shisha," Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said in a statement. "Tobacco smoke is dangerous for the health of the smoker, patrons and those who work in these establishments."
Officials said the city is looking to revoke the permits of the bars, though a list of penalties for the Smoke-Free Air Act on the Health Department's website says that may happen when an establishment has violated the act three separate times in a year.
But the Health Department said it would pursue the revocation of the bars' permits because they were "in flagrant violation" of the law.
"These are not restaurants that allow people to smoke, but smoking establishments that are serving tobacco as an essential part of their business," the Health Department said in a statement.