Oakdale approves tobacco licence moratorium

City to study its approach to tobacco sales 

 

Following an Oakdale Police Department recommendation, on Feb. 12 the Oakdale City Council approved a yearlong moratorium on planning and licensing tobacco stores. 

Police Chief Bill Sullivan said the main reason, among others, that the police department recommended the moriturum is the changing technology of tobacco — e-cigarettes and vaping — and the types of tobacco sold — such as candy-flavored cigars.

Mayor Paul Reinke said he has a general “distaste” for moratoriums, but that the prevalence of vaping among younger people “caused enough concern.”

Sullivan said police think the council should decide where and how many tobacco stores the city wants, and to address current issues like regulations on e-cigs and new tobacco technology sales, before accepting any licence applications. 

Currently, said Sullivan, Oakdale has three tobacco shops. “For a community this size, that’s quite a few.”

Council member Susan Olson expressed concern, saying she doesn’t like limiting access to new business in Oakdale. 

“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” she said.

The moratorium is for a year but can be shortened if the study is completed before then. Council member Kevin Zabel said he recalled a self-storage business moriturum study that was finished in about five months. 

Sullivan said the police department should be able to turn the study around well before the year is up, anticipating the council will see a report by early summer. 

The council approved the moratorium by a 4-1 vote, with Olson being the lone “nay.”

The move follows tobacco licence trouble the city had last year with Smokedale Tobacco in Oakdale’s Bergen Plaza on 10th Street North. 

At Oakdale’s Oct. 9 city council meeting, Sullivan said his department had “revealed a pattern” of unlawful business at Smokedale.

Just more than a week later on Oct. 19, Washington County charged Smokedale owner Hatem Amin Younis with 43 counts of tax evasion. A Department of Revenue audit allegedly found $14 million in under-reported sales and that Younis owed more than $900,000 in taxes.

The Oakdale City Council went on to deny renewing Smokedale’s tobacco licence at its Oct. 23 meeting.

 

—Solomon Gustavo

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