The Chennai Police have cracked down on hookah lounges attached to some restaurants in the city following specific allegations that some of them were entertaining minors. Police said there was also information that select customers were being allowed to use narcotic substances in the ‘sheesha.’

According to Joint Commissioner of Police (Central) V.A. Ravikumar, hookah lounges attached to three upmarket restaurants at Nungambakkam were closed down a couple of days ago. “We have sought an explanation from them… the ‘sheesha’ materials have been referred to the Forensic Science Laboratory for analysis. There was an input that young boys and girls were allowed to use hookah. Investigation revealed that minors were being entertained.”

While the restaurant managers produced declarations that the age and identity proof of customers were taken on record, police maintained that minors were using the hookah and often allowed to mix “addictive” substances.

“We ordered the closure of the hookah lounges only after a prima facie case was made out. In one restaurant, there was no lighting at the car parking and couples were allowed to remain in cars for long. This is not moral policing…we’re only enforcing the law. It involves safety of children,” said Mr. Ravikumar.

As a first step towards ensuring any misuse, police have asked the hookah lounges to install closed circuit television (CCTV) systems. “We intend to write to the Chennai Corporation [that issues licence to restaurants] to make it mandatory for hookah lounges to have the CCTV facility as a prerequisite while seeking licence. There should be adequate lighting at parking lots,” he said.