Montgomery Hookah Lounge Denied Liquor License, Owner Says Race a Factor
The owner of Fuego Hookah Lounge in Montgomery now says he believes race is the reason people oppose his business.
Nearly every seat at Tuesday night's city council meeting was taken, many there to protest the Fuego Hookah Lounge on Atlanta Highway. The lounge backs up to the Somerset community and residents who live there say they've had nothing but problems with it.
After hearing arguments for and against approving a liquor license for the lounge, the council voted to deny it, a motion that upset owner Tohid Rahmani.
"As he turned to leave, he said something into the crowd," says Police Chief Kevin Murphy. "I didn't hear what he said but one of the ladies said he just threatened us."
Rahmani was then asked to leave, but didn't go quietly.
Others were encouraged to wait in the lobby of City Hall while police escorted him to his car.
"Obviously everybody felt very strongly about their position and in instances like that, we do try to separate them," says Murphy.
Residents who live in Somerset say noise is their main concern with the lounge. But Rahmani says he believes it has to do with race because he says residents have told him so.
"He told me twice, three times in a row I'm having too many blacks coming in my location," he says. "Who are you telling me I'm not going to have black or white? I'm going to have black. I'm going to have white. That's the only problem they have."
But that's not the case, says Somerset resident Mary Gaines.
"I resent him bringing in race as a factor," she says. "Race has nothing to do with it. I'm a homeowner there and I moved there for certain features and those features were relatively quiet, relatively safe and I did not expect a lounge to be there with the sale of alcohol."