Hookah lounge leaves Mansfield in wake of K2 brouhaha

MANSFIELD -- The hookah lounge that came under fire from members of the community and eventually led the Mansfield City Council to adopt the first ordinance in the state against K2 has left town.

Marley'z Lounge moved Aug. 17, less than a month after opening, owner Andies Shepherd said. The business, which church members picketed before it opened, is now outside the city limits at 8401 Farm Road 1187.

"I won't have to worry about Mansfield ordinances," Shepherd said. "I wasn't feeling the love there at all."

On June 28, Mansfield became the first Texas city to limit sales of K2 and Salvia divinorum to adults older than 21, and it outlawed sales of the products and related smoking paraphernalia within 1,000 feet of a school, church, day care, park or library. In July, the council clarified the ordinance to include the sale or display for sale of paraphernalia, meaning that Shepherd could not display or sell his hookahs.

Even with the restrictions, Marley'z Lounge was doing good business, Shepherd said.

"I was doing great there with the potential to do even better," he said. "At my new place, I can sell hookahs. At the old place, I could only rent them."

At his new location, Marley'z Smoke Shop, Shepherd has more room and cheaper rent, and he can legally sell K2, an herbal incense that can cause hallucinations if smoked.

"I am selling it," he said. "I expect it to be illegal soon. You make what you can from it now."

Other cities in Texas followed Mansfield's lead on K2 sales, including Allen, Sulphur Springs, McKinney, Plano, Cleburne, Watauga and Frisco.

Fort Worth, Dallas and Arlington are also considering restrictions. State Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, has said she plans to introduce legislation to ban K2 in Texas.

K2 has come off the shelves in Mansfield stores.

"I haven't really heard of anyone selling it," said patrol commander Kyle Lanier of the Mansfield police. "It's difficult to find a place that isn't within 1,000 feet of a school, church, day care, city park or recreation center."

Marley'z Lounge, which was at 801 N. Main St., was within walking distance of Alice Ponder Elementary School, Worley Middle School and Legacy High School. That bothered several members of the community.

Zahid Rao, who owns the Shell Food Mart complex that included the store, said he asked Shepherd to leave after two mothers came to talk to him.

"They said the kids were coming here late at night," Rao said. "One mom was crying. That touched my heart.

Shepherd said he has learned a lot in the past few months and has no hard feelings against Mansfield.

"I never had any ill will toward anyone," he said. "I'm not that type of person. I still live in Mansfield. I'm looking to open another Marley'z in Austin in the next couple of months, but I would love to raise my family in Mansfield."

Amanda Rogers, 817-473-4451