The owners of seven Oak Park gas stations are suing the village board for the recently imposed ban on 24-hour gas stations, arguing that the restriction on hours threatens their livelihoods and forces a breach of contract with fuel suppliers. A temporary restraining order was granted Sept. 30, barring the village from enforcing the ordinance that requires gas stations to operate only between 5 a.m. and 12 a.m. each day.
“We are pleased with the court’s ruling today enjoining enforcement of the ordinance that requires our clients to close their businesses overnight,” said Samantha Ditore, one of the attorneys representing the gas stations.
“We will continue to reach out to the village with the hope to reach a voluntary and collaborative solution that allows our clients to stay in business and avoid the devastating effect of this ordinance.”
A preliminary injunction hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 12.
Legal action was anticipated from local gas stations. Attorney David Jasmer told the village board Sept. 19 that a temporary restraining order would be filed if the ordinance passed, which it did unanimously. Village Attorney Paul Stephanides also previously warned the village board that prohibiting 24-hour gas stations could result in litigation. Wednesday Journal has reached out to the village for comment.
The elimination of 24-hour gas stations is intended to combat increased criminal activity in the village. Oak Park has had a total of 18 violent offenses take place at gas stations in the last three and a half years; 13 of those offenses took place after midnight, including the murder of 18-year-old Jailyn Logan-Bledsoe in June.
However, the complaint argues that the new ordinance is “unconstitutional” and was put in place to “deflect and redirect” blame for violent crime away from the board and onto “eight minority-owned gas stations,” which serve many Oak Park residents that do not work traditional hours. The complaint also states that the gas stations are family-run businesses.
The complaint states the village has no data supporting its assertion that a reduction in gas stations hours would result in fewer violent criminal offenses and that the ordinance violates the rights of the gas station owners as set forth in the Fourteenth Amendment and under state property law.
The ordinance would also result in financial loss and possible closures of gas stations, according to the complaint, which states that gas stations pay between $60,000 and $80,000 in annual property taxes, while overnight sales account for roughly 15 to 35% of their overall sales.
“The dramatic decrease in income the ordinance would effectuate, combined
with the rising costs of operation, would significantly impede, the stations’ ability to
operate, potentially causing one or more to close their doors permanently.
Prohibiting gas stations from operating 24 hours each day, the complaint states, infringes on gas station owners’ rights to run their businesses and constitutes “a de facto revocation of nearly 20 percent of their business licenses.”
The gas station owners are seeking restitution from the village in a sum representative of lost profits and opportunities with fuel suppliers and other businesses in the event of breached or canceled contracts. Damages are also being sought by gas station owners in the amount of lost revenue that could be “reasonably expected” from new contracts if it were not for the ordinance.
“Our clients want to see criminal activity addressed just as much as any Oak Park resident, but there far more effective alternatives that do not place their livelihoods in jeopardy,” Ditore said.