The Milwaukee Common Council on Tuesday unanimously approved an ordinance that will create a temporary moratorium on “the issuance of certificates of occupancy for establishments selling electronic smoking devices or electronic smoking device paraphernalia.”
In other words: no new vape shops, Milwaukee. Well, until the moratorium expires on August 1, 2023.
“The Common Council finds that the availability and use of electronic smoking devices may have harmful impacts on the welfare of Milwaukee residents,” the ordinance reads. “The Common Council wishes to review the City’s existing regulatory structure for establishments selling electronic smoking devices, and to develop revised regulations that better serve the interests of the residents of Milwaukee.”
The roughly six-month pause extends to both dedicated vape shops and to any other establishment where more than 10 percent of its floor space—or more than 10 percent of its stock-in-trade—consists of “electronic smoking devices or electronic smoking device paraphernalia.”
The inclusion of other vape-related establishments—think gas stations and convenience stores—came after the ordinance was first introduced and discussed last week by sponsor Ald. Jonathan Brostoff.
“The recent explosion of vape shops has caused a lot of concern in the community and raised a lot of questions,” Brostoff told Milwaukee Record last week. “We need to take a step back and look at how to best move forward together […] We will take the time to assess our options and come up with the best plan to move forward for our community and for the city.”
At Tuesday’s Common Council meeting, Brostoff thanked neighbors in the Brady Street area who “raised the alarm on this issue, and have since been continuously informing me on the importance that we take some sort of action and think creatively about how we can regulate this product moving forward.”
Co-sponsor Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic also spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, noting that the moratorium was not a ban, but an effort to “bring regulation to an unregulated area.”
“I was walking with [Brostoff] along Brady Street,” Dimitrijevic said. “I was really shocked to see the proliferation of these types of venues. We’re not saying whether it’s good or bad. What we’re saying is we want neighbors, residents, and the city to have a say as to where they go, how close they are to schools and daycares and childcare. Just like we do with any other regulation of this type of activity.”
Ald. Mark Borkowski aired the strongest words at Tuesday’s meeting, criticizing both vaping establishments and the “arrogant attitude” of operators.
“People in places of business like this seem to get built-in immunity as far as being good residents or neighbors,” Borkowski said. “They actually just don’t give a darn as far as maintenance, as far as any kind of cooperation with the neighborhood. They don’t even attempt to try to be a good neighbor. I would hope that somehow, some way, that we can find the teeth—if it means state legislation—to say, ‘You know what? Your free pass is over. I don’t like the way you’re treating our community, and there’s going to be consequences.’ Right now, there’s no consequence.”
As for enforcement, the ordinance reads: “Both the department and the police department shall have the authority to inspect any electronic smoking retailer during operating hours and to enforce the provisions of this section. Failure of an establishment to comply with the requirements of this section may constitute grounds for the suspension, revocation or nonrenewal of licenses issued by the city to operate the establishment.”
“This is one step,” Brostoff said, “and it’s a quick, very, very, very temporary break in order to come up with a long-term solution to a serious problem facing our community.”
The moratorium will go into effect when approved by Mayor Cavalier Johnson.
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