After less than three months, City Smokes (2695 Coney Island Avenue) has closed for good, following a lawsuit filed yesterday by New York City that the roll your own cigarette business was skirting tax laws. A similar store in Sheepshead Bay has told Sheepshead Bites that he, too, is being threatened by the city.
Lawyers for New York City filed suit against the operators of City Smokes, and a second roll your own cigarette shop in Staten Island yesterday, threatening to collect back taxes for the tobacco sold on premises.
City Smokes is one of several new shops cropping up around the five boroughs that allow patrons to buy loose tobacco, paper and filters, and then use in-store machines to roll them. Since they claim they’re only selling loose tobacco, the industry exists in a legal grey zone, since loose tobacco is taxed at a lower rate. A standard pack at such a location could cost as little as $2.95.
The city, however, doesn’t think it’s so grey. If customers are leaving the store with rolled cigarettes, they argue, then they’re purchasing rolled cigarettes, and patrons should be taxed at the full rate.
“These legal actions are part of our ongoing efforts against businesses that think they can invent loopholes to skirt New York City’s tough cigarette laws,” Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo told Daily News.
The city also claims that these shops “cause a public nuisance” by selling cigarettes that have not been certified as “fire-safe” as required by New York State law.
The city previously forced two similar shops – one in Manhattan, the other in Staten Island – to close down in December after threatening to take them to court for back taxes.
A second Sheepshead Bay roll your own cigarette shop is also facing pressure from Bloomberg administration lawyers to close down. The operator of Green Leaf Smokes at 1326 Sheepshead Bay Road told Sheepshead Bites he received a cease and desist letter informing him the city will commence legal action against them in the event of non-compliance.
He declined to be quoted on the matter, but noted that he received the letter two weeks ago and has given it to his lawyer to determine an appropriate response.