A hookah-pipe bar owner in eastern France is suing the state for damages, claiming the country's new smoking ban has put it out of business, its lawyer said Thursday.
The "Sphinx", set up three years ago in the eastern city of Metz, closed down on January 1 when a nationwide ban on smoking came into effect in tens of thousands of cafes, restaurants and nightclubs.
It is demanding 60,000 euros (90,000 dollars) in damages, under a French law allowing compensation for individuals who suffer a prejudice as a result of policies designed for the public interest.
"My client, whose entire establishment was a smoking room, was forced to close down to respect a decree taken in the name of public health," said its lawyer, Xavier Iochum.
Like many of France's estimated 800 hookah-pipe bars, the "Sphinx" offered Oriental-style water pipes and tea, but no alcohol -- with tobacco sales providing its core source of income.
Owner Bayoumi El Sayad, a construction worker of Egyptian origin, claims to have sunk his life savings into the bar. Local authorities have two months to respond to his request.
Iochum claims there is legal precedent for compensation, that could apply to all water-pipe bars that opened before the anti-smoking decree was passed in 2006.
Under France's anti-tobacco legislation, smokers who light up in cafes face fines of between 68 euros (100 dollars) and 450 euros while business owners can incur penalties of up to 750 euros for violations.