Bountiful has given a one-year reprieve to four electronic cigarette stores that were denied business-license renewals and ordered to cease business as of Jan. 1.
In a Monday letter to the stores, City Attorney Russell Mahan noted that the shops were issued business licenses in 2013 and were given short notice less than a week that those licenses would not be renewed.
"Because these facts, along with the State law, create an unusual circumstance, the City in 2014 will NOT prosecute you or your shop for doing business without a license, or seek to close your business operation on the basis of a location violation," Mahan wrote.
The owners of the businesses Urban Vapor, Vapor Dreams, Vapor R Us and Vaporloc Bountiful received letters from Mahan last week telling them that their licenses would not be renewed because of a change in state law approved in 2012 by the Utah Legislature. That change bars a retail tobacco specialty business established after July 1, 2012, from being within 600 feet of a residence or within 1,000 feet of a school, library, park or church, among other community facilities.
Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, are battery-operated products designed to deliver nicotine, flavor and other chemicals. They turn nicotine and other chemicals into a vapor that is inhaled by the user.
The four Bountiful enterprises all are in prohibited areas. However, their owners said they checked with city administrators before they opened this year to ensure they met zoning requirements and were granted licenses.
Mahan said in his Monday letter that the stores will not be allowed to operate in 2015 unless they comply with state law which would require them to move to a new location unless the zoning requirements in their current spots change.
Jen Littlefield, one of the owners of Vapor Dreams, said the year extension is just a temporary fix. She and partner Lewie Lambros signed a three-year lease and spent $20,000 remodeling the store.
"We don't have the funds to start a new store right now," Littlefield said Monday. "We're still losing all our money and they're not reimbursing us."
Aaron Frazier, director of Utah Vapers, said the decision is a win for the shops but unacceptable as a permanent solution.
"Through the proposal, the city is asking each shop owner to operate illegally, without a business license," he said in a written statement. "This places them at great risk with the state tax commission, state A.G.'s office, along with their insurance provider."
Littlefield and other store owners were meeting with lawyers on Monday to discuss what action they can take.