Oak Park cigarette store feeling heat

Cook County has levied fines related to tax issues

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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

Oak Park police will be examining a North Avenue smoke shop after reports from the Cook County Department of Revenue revealed the store has been selling cigarettes from outside Cook County and not paying the county's taxes on them.

The shop in question, Smoker's Stop (formerly Tobacco and More) at 6319 North Ave., has been cited by the county repeatedly for evading Cook County taxes by selling cigarettes purchased from places where taxes are cheaper.

Oak Park resident Judith Alexander and her husband Joe Graber, co-founders of North Avenue Neighbors Association of Oak Park, sent an email Thursday updating the group about the matter. The note followed a neighborhood meeting Tuesday where Oak Park Police Chief Rick Tanksley met with neighbors about their concerns.

According to the email, Smoker's Stop is open 24-hours, seven-days-a-week and has been the source of extra noise in the neighborhood. The neighbors also learned that the store is part of a "chain evading Cook County taxes by selling cigarettes brought in from low-tax states like Missouri," according to the letter.

The email states that Tanksley indicated at the meeting that the owners of the shop have been fined $26,000 and said that the future of the store may be in jeopardy of being shut down.

No one at Smoker's Stop could be reached by phone on Friday for comment.

Oak Park Police Commander LaDon Reynolds couldn't confirm specifics about the fines the shop has been order to pay, but he did say the fines came from the Cook County Department of Revenue after the county investigated the business.

The next step will be for the Oak Park Police Department to conduct its own review of the Smoker's Stop's business practices to see if it is in compliance with the village's business regulations.

There is no specific timeline to review the store's practices, but Reynolds said Tanksley indicated the matter is a "priority" for the department. Police officials will be working with village management and Cook County to see what violations occurred and determine how those violations align with village standards.

From there, the police department will make a recommendation to the village manager and attorney on whether the business should retain its license to operate in the village.

The store itself has been causing some headaches for neighbors, who say they deal with constant loitering and late-night noise on the street. Alexander said the late-night activity around the shop makes neighbors nervous.

"It's people just hanging around all the time," she said.

Oak Park Trustee Adam Salzman, who lives in the neighborhood, said he believes there may be grounds for revoking the business' license.

This issue, however, also brings up another possible ordinance review for Oak Park as it relates to specific businesses that operate 24/7. Oak Park has the power to enact its ordinances governing the operation of such businesses, because it is a home-rule community.

Possible changes could include amending village code to explicitly prohibit 24-hour operations or outline what type of business can operate under those hours.

Either way, Salzman or his neighbors agree that cleaning up the street can help enhance its culture. Neighbors are also still actively involved in stopping another pawn shop opening on the Chicago-side of the street.

"It's one step in an ongoing process to improve the business climate on North Avenue," Salzman said.

Contact:
Email: anna@oakpark.com Twitter: @AnnaLothson

Reader Comments

10 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

OP Transplant  

Posted: September 25th, 2013 9:30 AM

Arthur-I agree. This is an easily predicted consequence of attaching a ridiculous tax penalty to a legal product. And I'm saying this as a non-smoker.

Arthur Laffer  

Posted: September 25th, 2013 9:23 AM

Certainly not to excuse tax evasion, but that is what happens when you raise taxes too high. More people and businesses will avoid paying them when they feel they are being taxed too much on a product, just like they are in Cook County. Cigarette taxes have created giant cigarette smuggling rings, which then benefit organized crime. Great job guys.

OP Transplant  

Posted: September 24th, 2013 11:21 AM

There's very little political will to fight the sale of drugs in Oak Park. As a community, we're extremely tolerant of drug use. The police reflect the larger culture in that respect.

Magpie-eye  

Posted: September 24th, 2013 10:46 AM

Hey Brendan - I think their ploy is what is known as 'hiding in plain sight'.

Brendan  

Posted: September 23rd, 2013 7:34 PM

I noticed that this is next door to the police substation. Besides no taxed tobacco there has been drug dealing. So do these dealers feel comfortable at the McDs next to the police station, the Tobacco store next to the police substation, and the gas station next to the police substation? It's almost like the police are in on it or they are keystone cops. Which is it?

Jennifer from Chicago  

Posted: September 23rd, 2013 6:48 PM

Ranger- your comments are absurd- if you can't afford legal cigarettes quit!

Ranger  

Posted: September 23rd, 2013 4:59 PM

Of course a oak park resident ruins it for everybody. They got enough money to pay for taxed cigs. Got to ruin it for the people in the struggle!!!

Ranger from Chicago  

Posted: September 23rd, 2013 4:57 PM

I knew some white person from oak park was going to ruin it. They had the best prices. Smh

Route 64  

Posted: September 23rd, 2013 10:11 AM

Scum breeds scum. Clean up North Ave. Rahm can you hear me now? For C sake, the Gov lives right there. Cant he get anything done???

Brendan  

Posted: September 23rd, 2013 7:10 AM

A 24 hour cigarette store? Who at the village rubber stamped this in the first place? Common sense needs to work its way into the process if approving businesses.

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