Archive for the tag 'city smokes'

Photo by Paypaul

Another pawn shop is coming to Sheepshead Bay, this time at 2695 Coney Island Avenue – just up the block from one we reported on last month. It replaces City Smokes, a roll-your-own-cigarette place that closed in the face of a city lawsuit.

It’s the third pawn shop to hit the area in as many months, with the first opening in mid-February. That’s got our tipster, Paypaul, wondering about the direction of the neighborhood:

Now it seems a number of Pawn shops have opened or are scheduled to open in Sheepshead Bay. I spotted this one on Coney Island Avenue and it’s a block away from another one. Pawn shops are usually located in neighborhoods with a low income base or diminishing economy. Perhaps not all of us can afford the limo service up the block so we put things in hock to do so?

While others have also grumbled that this could be a sign of a declining Sheepshead Bay, the area is doing fairly well economically. We still have a more affluent, better-educated population than most of the rest of Brooklyn, and our real estate is higher than many other comparable areas.

So is it a decline in the neighborhood, or perhaps a changing trend in the clientele of these shops? What do you think?

Apparently, the city is getting roll your own cigarette stores to close faster than you can say “roll your own cigarette stores.”

Green Leaf Smokes opened in late January at 1326 Sheepshead Bay Road, off the corner of East 14th Street. We asked at the time if they were aware of some ongoing lawsuits to such establishments – which sell cheaper smokes than at the bodega because customers roll their own using the stores’ machines – but they didn’t seem concerned.

When their Coney Island Avenue-based competitor was shut down under pressure of lawsuits claiming tax evasion, an employee of Green Leaf told us that they, too, had received some threats from the city.

We have not been able to confirm if the legal threats are the reason for the closure, but it has been the city’s MO to settle the charges against these establishments by requiring them to shut down their businesses and sign an agreement not to reopen.

After less than three months, City Smokes (2695 Coney Island Avenue) has closed for good, following a lawsuit filed yesterday by New York City that the roll your own cigarette business was skirting tax laws. A similar store in Sheepshead Bay has told Sheepshead Bites that he, too, is being threatened by the city.

Lawyers for New York City filed suit against the operators of City Smokes, and a second roll your own cigarette shop in Staten Island yesterday, threatening to collect back taxes for the tobacco sold on premises.

City Smokes is one of several new shops cropping up around the five boroughs that allow patrons to buy loose tobacco, paper and filters, and then use in-store machines to roll them. Since they claim they’re only selling loose tobacco, the industry exists in a legal grey zone, since loose tobacco is taxed at a lower rate. A standard pack at such a location could cost as little as $2.95.

The city, however, doesn’t think it’s so grey. If customers are leaving the store with rolled cigarettes, they argue, then they’re purchasing rolled cigarettes, and patrons should be taxed at the full rate.

“These legal actions are part of our ongoing efforts against businesses that think they can invent loopholes to skirt New York City’s tough cigarette laws,” Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo told Daily News.

The city also claims that these shops “cause a public nuisance” by selling cigarettes that have not been certified as “fire-safe” as required by New York State law.

The city previously forced two similar shops – one in Manhattan, the other in Staten Island – to close down in December after threatening to take them to court for back taxes.

A second Sheepshead Bay roll your own cigarette shop is also facing pressure from Bloomberg administration lawyers to close down. The operator of Green Leaf Smokes at 1326 Sheepshead Bay Road told Sheepshead Bites he received a cease and desist letter informing him the city will commence legal action against them in the event of non-compliance.

He declined to be quoted on the matter, but noted that he received the letter two weeks ago and has given it to his lawyer to determine an appropriate response.

City Smokes, the latest in a New York City trend of “roll your own cigarette” stores, has opened at 2695 Coney Island Avenue, the former site of Easy Leasing.

The store sells cheap cigarettes – $29.95 for a carton, according to a sign outside – but there’s a catch: you’ve got to roll them yourself.

RYOC stores provide their own blends of tobacco, usually designed to emulate the flavors from the big brands, and provide machines, papers and filters for rolling. By doing this, they manage to sell their wares as loose tobacco, which has much lower tax rates than pre-rolled cigarettes. There are only a handful of such stores operating in the city, and this appears to be the only one in Brooklyn.

But City Smokes is coming to town at a dubious time. Just last month, New York City filed a lawsuit against RYOC operators in Staten Island and Manhattan, claiming they’re illegally skirting tax laws and are effectively selling rolled cigarettes. If the City wins the case, City Smokes won’t have much of a business model.

What do you think? Should these be taxed as rolled cigarettes, or as loose tobacco?