Minnesota Tobacco Shop Owner Fighting To Open Store During Pandemic
“We want to be able to operate under the same rules as liquor stores”
An Owatonna businessman is at a loss as to why he’s had to closed his business when those that operate similarly can stay open.
“People aren’t going to quit smoking because they can’t get what they want at their local store – they will drive however far they need to in order to find a place still open, and that is counterintuitive,” said Maher “Mark” Safi days after law enforcement forced his Bridge Street business, the Owatonna Smoke Shop, to close.
Prior to Gov. Tim Walz extended and modifying his stay-at-home executive order, Safi had been able to continue operating his business while practicing safe social-distancing guidelines for his customers. His store — which sells tobacco and vape products as well as CBD products — had been running smoothly during the COVID-19 pandemic and had even attracted new customers from out of town.
“We have been getting people coming in from Austin, Albert Lea, and even as far as Winona to buy these products because their local shops had been shut down by the cities,” Safi said. “Legally some of our items cannot be delivered or ordered online, so they would drive 100 miles or more to see us despite the purpose of the shutdowns.”
On Tuesday afternoon, an Owatonna Police officer told Safi that his store was not an essential business in the governor’s original stay-at-home order. Safi said that he had to close up shop, but immediately began working with his attorney to get clarification on what constitutes a business essential.
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Minnesota Tobacco Shop Owner Fighting To Open Store During Pandemic “We want to be able to operate under the same rules as liquor stores” An Owatonna businessman is at a loss as to why he’s