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Denver fines 23 shops selling tobacco products without licenses

Twenty-three businesses in Denver were handed $150 fines on Monday after being warned they did not have the proper licenses required for retailers selling tobacco in the city.

The round of tickets stems from licensing requirement that the City Council passed in 2019 and officially took effect last year. They’re also a salvo from the city’s Department of Excise and Licenses announcing it is keeping a close eye on businesses that don’t live up to laws aimed at preventing youth tobacco use.

“The licensing requirement for retail tobacco sales is a critical tool Denver has used to hold businesses accountable if they sell tobacco to minors,” department director Molly Duplechian said in a statement Monday. “We hope this enforcement action today will result in Denver achieving 100% compliance with the tobacco licensing requirements.”

The retail tobacco store license was created through an ordinance that also increased the minimum to buy cigarettes, vape pens and other tobacco products in Denver to 21. Federal lawmakers made the national legal age to buy tobacco products 21 just months after the Denver City Council passed its law.

The store licensing piece was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and to give retailers more time to comply, according to city officials. The deadline to get a license was moved to July 1 of last year.

The 23 stores penalized Monday not only did not meet that deadline. They also did not take action after being warned they were out of compliance, according to the licensing department.

The businesses cited include liquor stores, neighborhood convenience stores and some shops that sell smoking and vaping products and accessories. Eleven Family Dollar stores were on the list.

The fines are $150 but if the businesses continue to sell tobacco products without licenses that figure will go up to $500 for a second citation and $999 for a third. The city’s goal is to avoid more fines and get the businesses into the licensing market, excises and licenses spokesman Eric Escudero said Monday.

In December, Mayor Michael Hancock vetoed another City Council ordinance targeting youth tobacco and nicotine use, a measure that would have banned the sale of any flavored products including menthol cigarettes.

City Councilman Jolon Clark, who voted for the flavor ban before voting in support of letting the veto stand, was among the councilmembers who said they would prefer the city use its licensing and code enforcement authority to crack down on retailers who sell smoking products to underage buyers and not resort to wide-reaching product bans.

“We have found a way for 21-plus stores to work for marijuana and I really believe that if we can get the enforcement and the fines and the taking away of licenses there, we can we can make it work for tobacco stores,” Clark said in December.

The flavor ban issue is now being taken up by the state legislature.

Here is a list of the unlicensed sellers ticketed on Monday, according to the Department of Excise and Licenses:

Angelo’s CDs and More, 1959 S. Broadway

East 28th Liquors, 3513 E. 28th Ave.

Fairfax Market Inc., 2835 Fairfax St.

Family Dollar, 3360 Downing St.

Family Dollar, 2848 Colorado Blvd.

Family Dollar, 998 Sheridan Blvd.

Family Dollar, 1340 S. Federal Blvd.

Family Dollar, 1467 S. Holly St.

Family Dollar, 1875 W. Mississippi Ave.

Family Dollar, 1515 W. 48th Ave.

Family Dollar, 1845 Federal Blvd.

Family Dollar, 2792 S Federal Blvd

Family Dollar, 2085 S. Federal Blvd

Family Dollar, 1700 E. Colfax Ave.

GG Convenience Store, 7520 E. Colfax Ave.

Hush Vapor, 1908 E Colfax Ave.

La Sanchez LLC, 1626 Bruce Randolph Ave.

Md East Colfax Liquor, 8200 East Colfax Ave

Nick Mart, 2137 S. Sheridan Blvd.

Swansea Corner Store, 5101 Saint Paul St.

The Grape Leaf Wine and Spirits, 7340 E. 29th Ave

The Glass Hut, 1350 S. Sheridan Blvd #9

Marley’s, 2574 S. Broadway