South Beloit City Council wants to limit tobacco stores

by Jenny Novac on July 27, 2011

The City Council wants to limit the number of tobacco stores in South Beloit and ban the sale of otherwise legal drug paraphernalia. South Beloit has been somewhat of a hotbed for tobacco stores thanks to the comparatively high cigarette taxes just north of city limits in Wisconsin.

South Beloit City Council wants to limit tobacco stores

South Beloit City Council wants to limit tobacco stores

The small border town has six tobacco discount stores, which almost exclusively sell smokes and smoking accessories. That doesn’t include gas stations or convenience stores that have tobacco licenses.

Some are selling types of incense that can be easily misused to get high.

While the sale of such items is perfectly legal, city officials want them out of South Beloit.

On July 18, the City Council was prepared to pass a nonbinding ordinance that expressed the city’s opposition to the sale of property commonly used for drugs. The ordinance was put on hold after City Attorney Roxanne Sosnowski said the council may be able to put an outright ban on drug paraphernalia.

“It appears the council would be able to pass an ordinance prohibiting the sale of some of these items,” Sosnowski said. “This would allow our police department to go in and speak with the owners of the retail tobacco shops and have some of these items removed from shelves.”

Sosnowski said she wasn’t sure whether it would be legal to limit the number of tobacco retailers in the city.

“It’s a gray area,” she said. “If it were challenged, we may lose.”

Mayor Mike Duffy said that he’d still like to try to limit the number of those stores in the city.

“It doesn’t sound real hopeful, but we’re going to do what we can,” he said. “We don’t need any more popping up, and I understand they’re businesses and we need tax money, but some businesses are harmful.”

Annual sales tax revenue for South Beloit has dropped each of the past four years. In 2010, the city generated nearly $500,000 less than it did in 2007. So far in 2011, sales tax revenue has been worse than it was in 2010.

Commissioner John LaMendola doesn’t believe limiting tobacco stores will affect local tax revenue.

“It’s not a question of bringing more business in the city, it’s just dividing up the business that’s already here,” he said. “You got so many customers, period. If a guy comes in and opens up another store he’s not bringing more people here — it’s the same people that are buying their cigarettes.”

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