‘Dangerous’ shisha bar shut down amid fears it could be fuelling Coronavirus pandemic

Published: Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Health officials have urged people to steer clear of shisha bars after one in Tooting was shut down for operating unlawfully during the lockdown and amid growing fears that this form of smoking could be fuelling the Coronavirus pandemic.

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Environmental health officers took legal action against the owners and managers of Café Havana at 93 Upper Tooting Road after they ignored warnings they should not be open for business during the lockdown. A second shisha bar, in nearby Mitcham Road, did close when ordered to by council officials.

Shisha bars often flout laws on smoking within enclosed premises - and some aggravate those breaches by jeopardising people's health in other ways. 

The use of charcoal burners inside these bars can produce toxic carbon monoxide gases – putting customers and staff at serious risk of poisoning.

Last year another shisha bar in Tooting was shut down after council enforcement officers discovered two families - including young children - living in flats above it were being poisoned by carbon monoxide fumes. Fortunately all made full recoveries and suffered no long-term ill-effects.

Now with the spread of Coronavirus, there are renewed fears that the practice of sharing hookah pipes to smoke and the bouts of coughing this form of smoking can lead to – could be fuelling the pandemic.

Café Havana may now face legal action as a result of flouting the lockdown. Last year the owners were prosecuted after carbon monoxide levels were found to be so high inside their shop that emergency gas board engineers had to be called out to switch off the building’s gas supply.

Consumer protection spokesman Cllr Steffi Sutters said: “People really need to avoid these types of premises. They are seriously dangerous for both their staff and their customers.

“As if the threat from the tobacco was not enough, the build-up of poisonous carbon monoxide gas inside these premises could prove fatal.

“And with the dangers now posed by Covid-19, the idea of sitting inside a small enclosed shop, with no room to socially distance, surrounded by people smoking and coughing and potentially transmitting the virus, seems quite ludicrous.

“For the sake of their health and the welfare of their families I strongly urge local people to avoid these potentially lethal shisha bars.”

Anyone with concerns about health and safety issues at any local business or commercial premises in Wandsworth can register those concerns by emailing staff who are based at Merton town hall. The email to use is foodandsafety@merton.gov.uk.

The use of charcoal burners in confined spaces can be lethal