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Published: Saturday, 4/5/2008

Group of owners challenges new convenience-store law

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

An alliance of Toledo convenience-store owners is challenging the city's law requiring those businesses to be licensed at a cost of $250 a year, install security cameras, and turn over surveillance video to police.

Scott Ciolek of the Toledo law firm Ciolek & Wicklund said the law is unconstitutional and will force some stores out of business.

He filed a complaint Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Toledo on behalf of the Midwest Retailers Association, seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction against the ordinance. He declined to reveal what stores make up the group.

"We have got these stores that are being targeted in these poor neighborhoods, and they are the only ones that serve poor neighborhoods," Mr. Ciolek said.

"These stores are owned by families, and they don't make a lot of money."

Toledo City Council on Dec. 11 approved, by a 9-2 vote, the new requirement for convenience stores to be licensed.

The law, which takes effect May 1, requires store owners to have security cameras and imposes a $100-a-day fine - down from a previously suggested $200-a-day fine - for stores that do not follow rules that dictate placement and how many times a videotape can be recorded over.

Council members Betty Shultz and Joe Birmingham cast the two negative votes.

Council President Mark Sobczak yesterday declined to comment specifically on the complaint. He said the ordinance was modeled heavily after a similar law in Minneapolis.

"They had problems with carryout owners not running very good businesses. They were selling stuff that led to crimes, and they weren't responsible," Mr. Sobczak said.

"I think most of the reputable operators have no problems with the [new] restrictions since the vast majority were already doing all that we're asking."

Mr. Ciolek said the law will hold business owners accountable for problems they have little control over, such as drug-dealing, gambling, and prostitution.

He said the requirement to turn over surveillance video within eight hours is an unreasonable search and seizure.

"Provisions of the ordinance are vague and fail to give a person of ordinary intelligence fair notice of what conduct is actually forbidden by the ordinance, creating the possibility of arbitrary and erratic enforcement," Mr. Ciolek said.

The city has 20 days to respond to the complaint.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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