Rogue Brooklyn Heights smoke shop slapped with 8 violations
Broke almost every tobacco-related rule on the books
The “Exotic Smoke Shop” at 64 Henry St. in Brooklyn Heights is in trouble again.
After inspecting the weed-themed shop on Feb. 17, the NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) determined that the controversial retailer was breaking almost every tobacco-related rule on the books — and never even bothered to obtain the licenses necessary to sell tobacco or vape products.
According to a spokesperson for DCWP, the city has issued eight violations. These include:
- Selling tobacco without a Tobacco Retail Dealer License
- Selling vape products without an Electronic Cigarette Retail Dealer License
- Selling to underage youth
- Selling flavored e-cigarettes
- Selling cigars for less than legal amount
- Failure to properly store tobacco products
- Selling wrapping papers in packages of less than 20 sheets
- Failure to post visible sign of age limits for customers entering store
The hearing for these violations is scheduled for April 29 at the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH). According to DCWP, if the shop is found guilty, OATH will issue fines.
Under New York City’s Tobacco Product Regulation Act, selling tobacco products or e-cigarettes without a valid NYC license is a misdemeanor and may also subject the seller to civil penalties. Even with a valid license, businesses that sell tobacco, vaping products or rolling papers to anyone under 21 years old can be fined up to $1,000 for the first violation and $2,000 for each subsequent violation within a three-year period.
This is not the first violation of city regulations for the Exotic Smoke Shop. The shop was forced to remove a garish sign featuring a grinning skull when the city discovered shop owners violated NYC’s Landmarks Preservation Commission rules. LPC sent the property owners two warning letters on Jan. 31.
NYC agencies began investigating the shop following an outcry from neighbors and inquiries by the Brooklyn Heights Association and local officials in February.
Brooklyn Heights Association’s Lara Birnback told the Brooklyn Eagle at that time that the neighborhood organization had received “numerous calls” from concerned neighbors. The shop is within a block or two of an elementary school and a preschool.
Councilmember Lincoln Restler’s office reached out to the Landmarks Preservation Commission and DCWP, since no record could be found of commercial applications. “We’ve been all over it,” Restler told the Eagle.
Neighbors like Pia Scala-Zankel expressed sympathy for nearby businesses abiding by Landmarks regulations, like Le French Tart Deli and Noodle Pudding. “The landlords care, the proprietors care. On this place, they slapped up a sign, and the landlord doesn’t care.”
Neighbors were also concerned that the shop’s cannabis-themed signage and decor, including a full-sized ceiling mural featuring a grinning skull surrounded by weed, was skewed towards youth.
On Wednesday, the colorful ceiling mural was nowhere to be seen. The entire ceiling is now painted white. In addition, a notice saying, “Under 21, No Tobacco, No Vapor. We Card. Please Have ID Ready” has now appeared on the front door.
The smoke shop, filled with bongs, rolling papers, lighters and other cannabis paraphernalia, is also belatedly attempting to patch up relations with neighbors. Another new sign reads: “We apologize for anyone that was upset Regarding the sign the company was misinformed with landmark regulations we are working on better serving the Community and we will be removing the sign if there’s any other concerns we would appreciate your feedback” [sic]
New York state has decriminalized recreational marijuana for adults, but actual weed sales remain illegal until the state finishes its regulation process, estimated to take six months to a year.
On Feb. 8, the New York State Office of Cannabis Management sent letters ordering more than two dozen businesses suspected of illegally selling or gifting cannabis to “cease and desist those operations or risk the opportunity to get a license in the legal market as well as substantial fines and possible criminal penalties.”
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