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Published: Wednesday, 6/25/2008

Judge delays law on licensing Toledo carry-outs

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A federal judge yesterday sided with a group of carry-out owners and granted a temporary restraining order against a new Toledo law that licenses the businesses.

U.S. District Judge James Carr granted a motion to prohibit enforcement of the law through July 10 after three convenience store owners testified against the measure.

An alliance of Toledo convenience store owners decided in April to challenge the city's law, which requires such businesses to be licensed at a cost of $250 a year, install security cameras, and turn over surveillance video to police.

City Council approved by a 9-2 vote Dec. 11 the requirement for the stores to be licensed.

"A temporary restraining order requires a pretty high level of proof," said Scott Ciolek, attorney for the store owners.

Mr. Ciolek said the law is unconstitutional and will force some stores out of business. He filed a complaint two months ago in U.S. District Court on behalf of the Midwest Retailers Association, seeking a permanent injunction against the ordinance.

When the complaint was filed, Mr. Ciolek said the stores being targeted are in poor neighborhoods. He also pointed out that coffee shops could be affected.

"We are hoping the city decides to repeal the law and go back to the drawing board with input from the owners because the stores are interested in reducing crime just as much as the city is," he said. "If we end up being the prevailing party, the city will have to pay all the [legal] expenses."

City officials in favor of the law promoted it as a tool to control crime, loitering, littering, and underage sales.

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner yesterday said the ruling posed "absolutely no problem whatsoever." He said both sides would likely work out an agreement.

"This is one of those issues I think there is wisdom and merit on both sides of the coin," Mr. Finkbeiner said.

The law applies to stores smaller than 5,000 square feet selling food and beverages.

Some owners claim a requirement to hand over surveillance video to police within eight hours constitutes an unreasonable search and seizure.



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