Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Dining, Hookah, and Belly Dance

Yours truly enjoying hookah in Egypt

Richardson, Texas, is not Egypt. Everything here has to be so difficult. The property in question here is zoned retail and has been for decades. The property to the immediate north is, too, but is undeveloped. The property to the south across the street is zoned retail and unified residential. So zoning is not the problem. The plan is for a restaurant, not a bar or lounge. It's not just another hookah lounge in a neighborhood of hookah lounges. It's family friendly. It offers a mix of services — food, entertainment, alcohol, hookah. It's a unique concept for Richardson. Maher Maho of Frisco, mayor of that city from 2008-2017, came to Richardson to speak before the City Council to support the request. I can't remember that happening before.

So, what's the hangup? The application is for a special permit, which is required because the restaurant plans to offer hookah to customers. Oh, and the entertainment is often belly dance. Try to guess which of our council members couldn't stomach that idea (pun intended). Go ahead. Try. Some of the votes are obvious. Some not.

The Richardson City Council voted 4-3 to approve the application.

Ken Hutchenrider conceded that "even though it would be a wonderful development for that area" he "just can't get there" himself and voted no. His arguments sounded awfully like, excuse me, an old white guy's complaints about cultural diversity. Outdoor hookah and belly dancing and kids, oh my.

Bob Dubey objected to parking and hookah and the proximity to neighbors. He offered a baffling mixed message about people saying they want destinations they can walk to in their neighborhood, but he can't see these neighbors wanting to walk to a Turkish Cafe. IHOP, sure, Turkish Cafe, oh my. He doesn't "buy into" the family concept of a Turkish Cafe. Excuse me, but this sounds like another old white guy's complaints about cultural diversity.

Arefin Shamsul said the "location is totally wrong." He didn't explain why property zoned retail is the "totally wrong" location for a retail business. Or what zoning classification the restaurant should look for instead.

As you might have been able to guess from the above photograph, I am all in favor of seeing this addition to Richardson's cultural diversity; the next stage of evolution of this area into a mixed-use environment with something more than a liquor store; this new option to Richardson's already eclectic mix of choices for dining destinations; and yes, increased walkability for the lucky ones who live in that area of Richardson.

Just in case you have to ask, "Is belly dance family friendly?" the answer is yes, yes it is. Just as Hawaiian Hula is. The Arabic dance style known in western countries as belly dance is primarily a Middle Eastern, African, and Mediterranean dance tradition.


Ken Hutchenrider said...

Mark: In the hope for transparency I would like to explain my vote. I have been in healthcare for over 40 years both as a Paramedic and an Administrator. Early in my career I saw numerous patients who died from COPD and Lung Cancer as a result of smoking and second hand smoke. In many cases these patients started when they were very young. In fact our country used to give cigarettes to our soldiers. Over my career I have seen the culture and customs of this country change from a society of smokers to non smokers. Remember the Marlboro Man? He was banned from advertising in order to help reduce smoking in this country. This change has been seen as positive as the incidence of Lung Cancer and COPD have decreased. As has been said, if we do not learn from the past we are doomed to repeat it. I do not want to see anyone exposed to smoking of any type and suffer the painful and debilitating effects of it. This is why I voted against this establishment not for the reason you listed for me. I am not in favor of any smoking where harmful effects on people can occur.
Thank you,
Ken Hutchenrider Richardson City Council Place 5

Mark Steger said...

Ken Hutchenrider, thanks for your explanation.