Monday, February 27, 2023
Homebusiness newsMounds Park Market in St. Paul loses tobacco license after 300 prohibited...

Mounds Park Market in St. Paul loses tobacco license after 300 prohibited items found – Twin Cities

When an inspector with the St. Paul Department of Safety and Inspections stopped by the Mounds Park Market on Earl Street last May, he reported finding some 300 prohibited tobacco items, from honey bourbon cigars to peach sangria, strawberry and pina colada-flavored smokes.

The products — some of them hidden in candy and apple sauce boxes or a tote bin — comprised some 60% of the market’s tobacco inventory.

“Here are individual photos, and they’re just across the board,” said Assistant City Attorney Therese Skarda, walking the St. Paul City Council through pictures on an overhead display during a public hearing this month.

The city council, which banned sales of flavored tobacco in convenience stores in early 2016, had seen enough.

Based on recommendations from city staff and further supported by a state administrative law judge, the council voted 6-0 on Feb. 1 to permanently revoke the Mounds Park Market’s license to sell cigarette and tobacco products. Council Member Nelsie Yang was absent.

Council Member Jane Prince, who represents the neighborhood, noted this isn’t the first time the market has violated city rules against flavored tobacco, among other licensing regulations.

In 2019, Mounds Park Market failed a city compliance check for flavored tobacco products, but shop owner Akil Jahed asked for lenience in a public hearing that October. He said he was confused about the rules, and the city council agreed to hold off on a penalty if he avoided further licensing violations for a year.

In August 2021, the market was issued a $300 penalty for failing a youth compliance check, as well as a $500 penalty for hosting prohibited tobacco products in plain sight. And then came the DSI inspection last May, triggered by a complaint to the city.

“In less than a year, we’re back with a really huge violation, where 60% of the tobacco items in the store were prohibited ones,” Prince said.

‘So completely straightforward’

Jahed, through his attorney, attempted to appeal the proposed license revocation to an administrative law judge last year, without success. His attorney, Derek Thooft, noted that Jahed was in Iraq for six months attempting to get his wife a visa to come to the United States. He had left shop management in the hands of family and friends, with limited oversight.

Including the parents, wives and spouses of Jahed and his employees, “there are seven people who rely on this store as their sole income, their only form of survival,” said Thooft, who asked for a softer penalty such as a temporary tobacco license suspension when he addressed the council on Feb. 1.

In her findings, Administrative Law Judge Jessica Palmer-Denig remarked on the sheer volume of prohibited products, as well as the back-to-back violations in less than two years. She noted the license revocation is in keeping with the city’s penalty ladder, or matrix penalty, which was revised in December.

“I cannot recall getting an administrative law judge finding of fact … that is so completely straightforward that this is not a case where we should deviate from the recommendation,” Prince told the council.

Source link



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here



Most Popular