Antioch Council approves additional smoke shop regulations

Prevents new ones from opening in the city, with exceptions

By Allen Payton

With only three of the five members in attendance, the Antioch City Council during their July 25 meeting, voted to approve new regulations for smoke shops that sell cigarettes and drug paraphernalia, and voted to apply for a $10 million grant for a desalination plant. Both Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe and Council Member Monica Wilson were absent.

Due to the need for a 4/5’s vote to adopt, the council had to postpone the decision on an urgency item for a moratorium on the conversion of seniors-only mobile home parks to all-ages housing until the Aug. 8 meeting.

Smoke Shop Regulations

The council approved a new definition of tobacco product and what a tobacco and drug paraphernalia retailer is, amending the existing city ordinance. (Read the complete staff report and ordinance, here: Antioch Smoke Shop Ordinance new regs 07-25-17)

According to the city staff report by Community Development Director Forrest Ebbs, the action prohibits, “with a couple of exceptions, a general medical exception…there’s also an exception on convenient stores which are ancillary to gas stations, as long as less than 20% of their sales area is devoted to tobacco.”

“The current owner can operate it, but it would not be allowed to be sold and continue,” he explained. “Five years is the mark, giving someone ample time to recoup their investment.”

No members of the public spoke during the public hearing. However, letters were submitted by organizations representing the tobacco retailers.

“I’m glad we’re finally at this point on this ordinance,” said Council Member Lori Ogorchock. “Only a few people have reached out to me.”

“This ordinance is coming to fruition, I hope tonight because of the smoke shops and our children,” she explained. “I don’t believe these smoke shops should be allowed in our city. So, I’m happy to see this on the agenda.”

She then chided the tobacco retail business owners for not attending the meeting and speaking about the issue.

“I feel it’s every business owner’s responsibility to know what’s going on in this city,” Ogorchock stated. “I would hope and pray you would read the agenda packets. There’s five members on the council you can reach out to. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Please know what’s going on in the city if you own a business in this city.”

“I appreciate the comments from my colleague, Councilwoman Ogorchock,” he said. “The only question is existing businesses. Are they grandfathered? How will this affect them?”

“This ordinance seems like it will give them more direction and understanding,” Tiscareno continued. He asked about “family member transferrable businesses. Those are things that kind of concern me. I agree we shouldn’t have any newer ones. It doesn’t deny those stores of selling their products. It’s just more keeping that corner neighborhood and our kids safe.”

“They’re given a certain amount of time if they decide to get out of it to have potential new owners…up to 2023 for an established business to get established with the new criteria,” he stated.

“It’s unfortunate that these store owners weren’t here to express their concerns. Shame on them, really for not being here,” Tiscareno said reiterating Ogorchock’s concern. “I think there was enough ample time for those folks to be here. I actually received calls an hour before city council for us to postpone this. I’m not going to delay this because of folks not looking at an agenda.”

He asked for clarification about the new regulations on existing businesses and potential family owners.

Ebbs responded with explanation of the aspects of the ordinance.

“I’ll speak to the two kinds of tobacco retailers that are probably important to you. The first is called the smoke shop which is a place that has more than 20% dedicated to the sale of tobacco. Those businesses, we counted 11…in the city. They may continue to operate. They don’t have to make any changes in their operation. They may sell their business to a new operator. But as of Jan. 1, 2023 they may no longer sell their business. So, that’s the restriction on those types of businesses.”

“Other tobacco retailers in the city, it’s a very similar case except for there’s no restrictions on them selling it,” Ebbs continued. “So, if you’re a corner market you sell groceries and all sorts of things, and you happens to sell cigarettes also, and you’re less than 5,000 square feet, you may continue to operate without restrictions. Five years come and go then you can sell it.”

“New operators coming in have, very restrictive,” he stated. “You have to be over 5,000 square feet or tied to a gas station. Other than that the city will not be entertaining new tobacco retailers of any sorts. Even a small mom and pop corner market types. That is what is written before you.”

Tiscareno asked about transfers of businesses to “inherited family members.”

“Interfamilial transfers would be protected,” said Interim City Attorney Derek Cole.

“The 20%, where did that number come from?” asked Mayor Sean Wright.

“It’s observed in other ordinances that we looked at,” Ebbs responded. “You’d be hard pressed to find a store with 20%. Those stores that have vertical storage of cigarettes, at least…the actual floor area is pretty small.”

“I should point out too that drug paraphernalia sales are not permitted at tobacco retailers going forward, on new operators,” he added.

“The amendments we made tonight answer the questions in those letters we received,” Ogorchock stated. “This is a safety issue for our children and a quality of life issue for the City of Antioch.”

Tiscareno asked about hookah lounges and potential cigar bars, brought up by Thorpe at the previous council meeting, and if they would be permitted.

“If a business did come up in the future that we felt was legitimate, council could hear that and amend the ordinance or is this it?” he asked.

“You could absolutely amend it,” Ebbs stated.

“We’re going to be pursuing a separate effort that relates to smoking…in parks, and certain types of flavored tobacco,” he added. There’s a lot of momentum and a lot of that happening in the county.”

The council adopted the ordinance on a 3-0 vote, but it must come back for a second reading at the next council meeting on Aug. 8, for a final vote.

Grant Application for Desalination Plant

The council voted to direct City Manager Ron Bernal “to submit a grant application, execute a funding agreement and certify funding disbursement to the California Department of Water Resources for grant funding up to $10,000,000 from the Proposition 1 Water Desalination Grant Program for the Brackish Water Desalination Project.”

Chichibu Sister City 50thAnniversary

The council also recognized the 50th anniversary of the Antioch-Chichibu, Japan Sister City relationship. Mayor Sean Wright recently returned from a trip to Japan, along with his family members and other members of the Sister City Committee.

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Antioch Smoke Shop Ordinance new regs 07-25-17
Antioch Smoke Shop Ordinance new regs 07-25-17

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