New York restaurant owner set hookah lounge on fire during coronavirus shutdown, investigators say

Restaurant owner allegedly set hookah lounge on fire during COVID-19 shutdown

NEW YORK CITY — A restaurant owner in New York was caught on camera setting several fires at his business after it closed because of coronavirus restrictions, investigators said.

Asif Raja, 54, used a flammable liquid as a catalyst to set multiple fires at The Ignited hookah lounge Aug. 4, WPIX reported.

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However, the sprinkler system turned on, knocking out the flames, WABC reported. There were no injuries.

New York City fire marshals believed the fire was suspicious and continued investigating, eventually determining it was arson, WCBS reported. Surveillance video showed Raja pouring a liquid on several tables before lighting them each on fire, officials said. He then runs into the kitchen, turns off the lights and leaves the building, video shows.

Raja was arrested and charged with arson. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

“We are extremely grateful that no one was injured during this incident and for the collaboration between all the law enforcement agencies involved in bringing this individual to justice,” Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said in a statement.