Toledo C-store Owners Fight Pending Law

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Toledo C-store Owners Fight Pending Law

TOLEDO, Ohio -- A pending law here has c-store operators steaming. The legislation requires operators to be licensed at a cost of $250 a year, install security cameras and, if need be, turn over surveillance video to police.

Scott Ciolek of the Toledo law firm Ciolek & Wicklund told the Toledo Blade the law is unconstitutional, and in some instances, will force some stores out of business. Last week, Ciolek officially filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Toledo on behalf of the Midwest Retailers Association, seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction against the ordinance.

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

"These stores are owned by families, and they don't make a lot of money." Ciolek declined to reveal what stores make up the coalition.

The Toledo City Council approved the law last December by a 9-2 vote. Unless overturned, the law will take effect May 1, and will require store owners to have operational security cameras in place. For those stores that do not comply, a $100-a-day fine will be imposed.

While Council President Mark Sobczak declined to specifically comment, the Toledo Blade reported he said the ordinance was modeled 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," 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."

Ciolek contends that the law will hold business owners accountable for problems they have little control over, such as drug-dealing, gambling and prostitution. Additionally, he said the law requires store owners to turn over surveillance video within eight hours, which 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," Ciolek said in the report. The city has 20 days to respond to the complaint.