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13 hookah lounges in danger of closing after undercover probe by Health Department

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NEW YORK CITY (PIX11) -- Could more than a dozen hookah bars in New York City go up in smoke?

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said it conducted an undercover investigation in November. Using NYU students, they discreetly took samples of shisha which was then sent to a lab for testing.

Shisha contains herbs, molasses and often tobacco.

And according to the Health Department, tobacco was found in the samples.

"If they feel like they need to shut everybody down, they shut everybody down. What can we do?" Ahmed Gamaa of Sahara East said.

Smoking tobacco in bars, restaurants and the workplace violates the city's smoke free-air laws. Hookah bars are supposed to have tobacco-free smoking.

Mohamad Bashir, the owner of Kazuza on Avenue A, said he's going fight the Health Department at a hearing in February.

"How do I know that's my sample? How do I know what they are doing? They are accusing me of something that's not true," Bashir said.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said, "These 13 hookah bars are knowingly flouting the law by serving tobacco-based shisha. Tobacco smoke is dangerous for the health of the smoker, patrons and this who work in these establishments. We will not tolerate this willful disregard of New York City's smoke-free air laws and have already taken steps to revoke the permits of these establishments."

Sunaina Bindra has been coming to Sahara East for 10 years. She will be very disappointed if it closes.

"Its low key and it's an easy place to go after work," Bindra said.

This is the list of establishments the Health Department wants to close:
• Parlay Café, 1780 Amsterdam Avenue, Manhattan
• 9A NYC Kitchen and Lounge, 2331 West 12th Avenue, Manhattan
• Luxor Lounge, 118 MacDougal Street, Manhattan
• Le Souk Harem, 510 LaGuardia Place, Manhattan
• Falucka, 162 Bleecker Street, Manhattan
• Cozy Café, 43 East 1st Street, Manhattan
• Sahara East, 184 1st Avenue, Manhattan
• Cloister Café, 238 East 9th Street, Manhattan
• Kazuza, 107 Avenue A, Manhattan
• Fayrooz Hookah Lounge and Bar, 28-08 Steinway Street, Queens
• Melody Lounge, 25-95 Steinway Street, Queens
• Layla Hookah Lounge, 181-34 Union Turnpike, Queens
• Cloud 9, 179-22 Union Turnpike, Queens