DEARBORN — With the May 1 implementation date for Michigan’s state-wide indoor smoking ban looming, many local business owners will be forced to make what could be one of the most important decisions of their lives.For the many dozens of mostly Arab-owned cafes and restaurants that include hookah smoking, from Dearborn all the way to Kalamazoo on the west side of Michigan, there are main two choices: to convert to a “tobacco specialty shop” and eliminate food in their establishments or to eliminate the smoking component. Either way, most of them are likely to lose profits in a business environment that is already as challenging and competitive as any time in recent memory.Nearly 200 hookah bar owners attended a March 30 meeting sponsored by the American Arab Chamber of Commerce in Dearborn to voice their concerns and questions about the smoking ban, including Fawzi Al-Shohatee, owner of Yemen Nights Café in Detroit and Lava Java Café in Dearborn.Al-Shohatee and his business partner Rashad Bazzi have chosen to eliminate smoking at both restaurants while losing the food aspect of Bazzi’s Dearborn Heights Lava Java location, but it won’t come without major costs.”(The ban) is going to affect a lot of businesses around here; it costs a lot of money to do all this maintenance stuff for these changes,” Al-Shohatee said.The law states that smoking is not allowed anywhere food or beverages are sold, but there are a few ways that customers can still enjoy both hookah and food together according to Michigan health department officials.For customers smoking hookah in a designated building or other area, food or drinks can be ordered from another establishment to be consumed along with the hookah. Food and drink from the same establishment cannot be consumed along with the hookah, however.While Al-Shohatee expects to see a drop in profits because of the law, he is hopeful that food sales will stay strong because of customers willing to buy food at Lava Java to bring to Bazzi’s Midnight Café a few doors down in the same plaza.Customers can also take hookah outside in outside areas called “smoking huts” according to the law as long as they are separate from the main part of the establishment and no food or drink from the restaurant is served or consumed.One example of such a setup is Famous Hamburger on Schaefer Road in Dearborn. The restaurant features a separate enclosed area for smoking that owner Faisel Hider said would remain open alongside the restaurant.”The only thing that is going to hurt us is that people are not going to be able to eat in there, they have to get food from somewhere else,” Hider said.Arabica Café in Dearborn also has a separate room for smoking with its own title, Loush’s, but manager Hanna Loush is also expecting a drop-off in profits as well.”I think this will hurt business, people want to eat and have coffee or tea while they smoke; they don’t like it separate.”Also, restaurants or cafes that serve food and drink with outdoor sections or rooftops that are included in the food service license may not allow smoking with food/drink, a ruling that doesn’t sit well with many local hookah café owners.Despite the outreach on educating the community with the meeting and through calls to local and state officials, many owners are still confused about the intricacies of the rules, however, including Al-Shohatee and Loush.”I’ve talked to many other owners and they say it’s confusing, so we’ll just have to wait until May 1st to see what happens,” Loush said.”Everybody tells you different; they say they’re told one thing by the city and another thing by the state.”Local hookah cafe owners aren’t ready to give in to the ban, however. Akram Allos, who owns Sinbad’s Grand Cafe in Dearborn and is a hookah distributor, said he has collected signatures of 60 hookah cafe owners and is aiming for 100 in anticipation of a class action lawsuit for the right to allow the cafes to continue operating in their current states. Allos said owners are not happy about laying off workers and are concerned about preserving a time-honored Arab tradition.”Dearborn has become an international city, people come from across the USA to enjoy the food, the sweets, and the hookah and they are denying us this American right; we feel they are targeting us,” he said.For more on information on the smoking ban, people can contact the Michigan Department of Community Health at 517.373.3740.