BOUNTIFUL -- Four speciality electronic cigarette retail shops in Bountiful will not receive the renewed business license they need to operate in 2014.
The decision by Bountiful city officials based on zoning issues is "inappropriate" because it leaves shop owners without any grace period to make alternative arrangements, said Aaron Frazier, director of Utah Vapers, a trade organization representing certified e-cigarette shops across the state.
"We're talking four stores in the Bountiful area. This is no small matter," Frazier said.
The four speciality retail shops effected are Vapor Dreams, 273 W. 500 South, No. 11; Urban Vapor LLC., 310 S. 200 West; Vapor R Us, 74 E. 500 South and VaporLoc, 390 N. 500 West.
But Bountiful officials claim the law is the law -- in this particular case, state law.
The city informed the businesses they would not be renewed for a new license for 2014 in a Dec. 23 letter drafted by Bountiful City Attorney Russell L. Mahan.
"Each of the four shops received copies of the same letter," Frazier said.
Mahan could not be reached for comment as city offices are regularly closed Friday.
Bountiful Mayor Joe Johnson said this particular action has not been discussed with the city council. He said but if such a letter would have been sent out by the city, it would have been in accordance with city ordinance.
Brad Parsons, co-owner of VaporLoc in Bountiful, said he has retained an attorney and is hoping to receive an extension from the city on the Jan. 1 deadline.
"We are trying to play nice," Parsons said.
"We went through all the regulations. (The city) knew what we did 100 percent," Parsons said. He said now that he has invested $130,000 into his store, the city is saying he must close effective Jan. 1.
"They give us five days notice, which is a little ridiculous," he said. "Merry Christmas."
As far as state regulations go, Parsons said, he may be in violation. But the city of Bountiful indicated they had their own regulations, and issued business licenses to them as a result of that, he said.
Based on a copy of the letter addressed to Vapor R Us, Mahan explains that under section 10-8-41.6 of the Utah Code, a municipality cannot issue a license to a retail speciality business if it is located within 1,000 feet of a "community location," school, church, library or park, or within 600 feet of a residence.
And according to Mahan's letter, without a business license, the business would be operating in violation of city ordinance.
"Starting Jan. 1, you will have no valid business license," Mahan said. "I realize that this will work a hardship upon you. However, the city does not have any discretion in this matter, as state law is binding upon the city," he said in the letter.
The majority of the Bountiful e-cigarette shops being closed are a result of being too close in proximity to neighborhoods, Frazier said.
But before those speciality e-cigarette retail stores opened in 2013, shop owners confirmed their location with the city and were assured they were not considered as a tobacco retailer, he said.
"They have now reversed their original decision, but unfortunately only after each of these shops have invested tens of thousands of dollars in facility improvements, tens of thousands of dollars in inventory and (committed to) 2 to 5 year leases on their location they will be unable to get out of," Frazier said.
The decision by the city will also result in about 15 people losing their jobs, and a loss in city and state sales tax revenues, Frazier said.
Parsons said what he finds annoying is that he is selling a product in e-cigarettes that helps people stop smoking, while on other street corners in the city are businesses selling cigarettes.
Utah Vapers is currently working with the Davis County Department of Health in creating an ordinance to regulate e-cigarettes and the labeling and sanitation methods behind the making of the e-juice.
Contact reporter Bryon Saxton at 801-625-4244 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at @BryonSaxton.