Smokefree DC says hookah bars violate D.C. smoking ban

A watchdog group is taking aim at local bars in the District, claiming several businesses are breaking the law by allowing smoking and even specifically catering to the smoking crowd.

The D.C. Health Department tells ABC7 that not only is this problem on its radar, but it's formed a collaborative interagency task force to crack down.

Hookah bars seem to be popping up everywhere in D.C. and customers tell us they're just fine with that.

"This city is very dynamic, very cultural, people from all over, from countries where it is the social thing to do with friends and families," says Natasha Benitez.

But the group Smokefree DC says some of the bars don't have a "special exemption" to operate and it sent a list to the city's health department.

The owner of Queen's Cafe in Adams Morgan says he shouldn't be stopped from allowing smoking. He doesn't serve food or alcohol. Nothing but hookah. And he's been trying to get an exception.

Off camera, other owners tell ABC7 there seems to be confusion about the rules and they've had trouble processing the paperwork.

Customers fear the crackdown by a task force could mean more red tape and fewer hookah bars.