A Baltimore businessman will open a Middle Eastern
restaurant and smoke shop
in Upper Fells Point, not far from the Brass Monkey Saloon
, Asahi Sushi
and the Latin Palace
Akram Ayyad will invest between $20,000 and $50,000 to open a 1,200-square-foot restaurant and smoke shop at 1611 Eastern Ave. The plan awaits approval from the city's zoning board, expected next month. Ayyad has yet to determine a name for the venue.
Ayyad hopes to create a upscale casual venue that will serve light fare falafel and hummus, soft drinks and desserts. The business will also offer tobacco products such as cigars and possibly hookah. No alcohol will be served.
No major renovations are expected even though the building was used formerly as a clothing store, Ayyad says.
Ayyad plans to run the business with his brother. Together the brothers also operate additional business ventures such as a deli, and a small towing company. Ayyad moved to Baltimore 12 years ago from Jerusalem to join his extended family that has been here since the 1950s.
Baltimore’s zoning board rejected Ayyad’s initial application because unlike tobacco shops, smoke shops are not listed as permitted or conditional uses in Baltimore.
Smoking in restaurants has been banned in Baltimore since 2008 and is currently regulated by the Baltimore City Health Department. However, some businesses can apply for exemptions
from the indoor smoking ban such as retail tobacco establishments.
A retail tobacco establishment can qualify if at least 75 percent of its revenues come from non-cigarette tobacco products, and the entry of minors is prohibited.
If the appeal goes through, tobacco products will make up 75 percent of sales at the yet unnamed restaurant with the remainder on food, Ayyad says.
Pending approval for the zoning board and other city agencies, Ayyad hopes the establishment will open in late May.
Source: Akram Ayyad, business owner
Writer: Alexandra Wilding