Midtown Raleigh News

Hookah bar will add off-duty policeman for crowd control

The owner of the Sahara Hookah Bar on Peace Street will hire an off-duty police officer because of neighbors' complaints about rowdy late-night patrons.
The owner of the Sahara Hookah Bar on Peace Street will hire an off-duty police officer because of neighbors' complaints about rowdy late-night patrons. cowens@newsobserver.com

Neighbors have taken steps to calm night life around their homes, a situation they said is worsened by a hookah bar located in their neighborhood.

Residents of the Glenwood-Brooklyn neighborhood north of downtown first took their concerns to the City Council in May. They complained about late-night noise and other disturbances, which they said the presence of the Sahara Hookah Café exacerbated. The council’s law and public safety committee revisited the issue last week, shortly before a petition to require parking permits in the area received enough signatures to bring the issue before the City Council in August.

“We’d like to be able to sleep at night,” said Philip Poe, a neighborhood leader at the time of the initial complaint to the City Council. Poe headed up the effort to find signatures for the petition.

The parking permits were only one solution discussed at the May meeting. Another suggestion was for the owner of the hookah bar, Naser Shamma, to hire an off-duty police officer to provide security at his establishment, located in the 700 block of West Peace Street.

All parties agreed the problem is created – at least in part – by people parking in the neighborhood and then walking downtown. They return late at night, neighbors report, often intoxicated and causing a disturbance. Unwilling to go home yet, they go to the Sahara, which stays open as late as 4 a.m., well after bars close at 2 a.m.

The petition needed signatures from 70 percent of the area’s property owners to bring the parking permit matter before the City Council. The permits will aim to deter non-residents from parking in the neighborhood. “Do we want all this permit parking? No,” Poe said. “Do we need it? Yes. It’s been a very difficult period of time for us.”

Shamma said at the meeting last week he would have an off-duty police officer hired by the weekend. Captain Robert Council, commander of the Downtown District, said the police department has looked into the issue since the May meeting. He said Shamma has initiated contact with an off-duty police officer, beginning the hiring process.

When speaking about how long the process could take after paperwork is complete, Council said “once it’s finished scheduling-wise, within a day or two at the most.”

Shamma said he has made an effort to keep the area cleaner and to monitor the behavior of people in the neighborhood late at night since the last meeting. He added that his hookah bar is not responsible for all of the disturbances caused. He will hire an off-duty police officer, but it will cost him $2,000 a month and he does not see why it is necessary. “I really need something from the city to protect me,” Shamma said.

One neighbor who came to last week’s meeting, Damon Chetson, said he had no issue with Sahara and has not experienced the same issues as other neighbors. He said he moved into the area to be close to downtown and that the problem comes from people coming back from Glenwood South.

“In terms of direct responsibility, I would not lay that at Mr. Shamma’s feet,” Chetson said.