And why the hell does my city care so much?
This report is updated in May 2015 since this issue is has become significant after attending city council meetings for clients to overcome that designation. Some of those results are modified in this updated report.
We’ve identified four “watchdogs” or entities that you need to be mindful of and to keep in your view:
- The FDA: the baddest of the Big Boys right now, since regulations are pending which will decide whether vaping products and e-cigs are:
a) tobacco products
b) A medical delivery device
c) Neither of the above d)
Or in a new category that may have its own set of rules Make no mistake, they will render a (new) decision soon and depending upon where you live and how you’ve set up shop, it may change or defeat your current business model. Be warned…
2) Your state. How do they view vape shops?
So far most have not reached any decision or consensus but you may be in a state that has.
3) Your competition. This is addressed in much more detail in other reports, so we’ll move on to the 800 pound gorilla in the room:
4) your city. Cities are under a lot of heat right now regarding Vaping and the two biggest areas of controversy are
1) Under age sales and
2) Vaping “in public”
And what is considered Public, after all? Another conversation that they have to deal with which goes into #1 is the increasing number of students (usually high school) that have smoking devices confiscated in school. Sometimes they are smoking juice, sometimes cannabis, but the teachers and school board want answers and solutions and cities are somewhat powerless to provide them, so they do what they determine is best: They restrict the sale of vape products to anyone under 18, which we support, and they stop vaping outside and in parks and malls and city owned property, etc.… and that part pisses us off. They also may require a tobacco seller’s license and stop all sales from kiosks and similar outlets. Back to the city’s dilemma.
We have spoken to many city council members and mayors and even if they privately approve and agree with Vaping and all that goes with it, they won’t say that on record. We have seen literal Vape Shop explosions in certain cities and they must pass out licenses and permits like candy on Halloween. If you got the money, you get the approval. That has been biting them in the ass as we have seen many cities become overly saturated with Vape Shops and now they (cities) are seeing the folly in their decisions. One of the sticking points that cities are using as justifiable criteria is:
“Is your Vape Store a Lounge?”
Why should they care and more important, IS your store a lounge, too? Does it have a couch? Any chairs to comfortably sit in? Seems bar stools and such don’t qualify. Do you have free Wi-Fi to keep your customers there longer? How about a TV? Pool table? Video game consoles? Soda machine? With all these questions come few answers as to what constitutes a lounge. But here’s the issue. If you are just and solely a retail business, you will probably get less flak from the city about staying in business in case they need to backtrack their lenient ways. If you have a couch and more square footage than you “need,” you could be getting a letter or visit by the city. In California, many cities are requiring special permits, called “Conditional Use Permits” which allow you to operate as a “lounge” whether you are one or not. You can see that one incentive is part of their weeding out process but the other is revenue generation. Here’s the problem: if you apply for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) and are denied, you are out of business. You can fight city hall and we can teach you how.
How do you protect yourself?
Before you open your doors, find out the guidelines and criteria and if there is a distinction between a lounge and not a lounge. I always advocate you be proactive and be forearmed since it will be a more defensible position. Any questions?? Send us a note to norm@VapeMentors.com.
Author: Norm Bour
Norm Bour is the founder of VapeMentors and the host of the award-winning podcast Vape Radio. He’s a vape industry coach, speaker, author and can be seen rubbing shoulders with the top influencers in the vape industry.