Vape Kings Being Targeted For Closure In Framingham
Chris Kolacz, a vape shop owner in Massachusetts, opened his second shop Vape Kings Framingham in February this year.
On August 23rd of last year, Kolacz sought advice from Framingham town officials, the Building Department, and finally the Health Department regarding permits and approvals for opening a vape shop in their town. He was reportedly told that he was free to operate within the city with no permits required.
Armed with this advice from city officials, he negotiated and secured a two-year lease on the location and began planning $65,000 worth of renovations.
Since completing his expensive fit-out and opening his shop to the public, he has now received a cease and desist from the city because his shop is not approved to sell tobacco products, which is what e-cigarettes are currently treated as in many jurisdictions.
The city has been steadily reducing the number of permits, with plans to limit them to just 30 in July. Considering that there are 15 individuals on the waiting list and a total of 70 permits already allocated, simply applying for one now is not really an option for Chris.
His request for leniency – considering that he acted on an official’s advice – was denied by the city last Monday, putting his entire business in jeopardy. The order from the city really has taken him by surprise, and no wonder – he was told he didn’t need permits for both of his shops, and he genuinely didn’t need one for his first shop in Plymouth.
“At this point, I’m here, by mercy, asking you guys to help me,” he said, “because I’ve literally invested everything I have. I’m a single father. The mother’s not in the situation. I have full custody of my two children that are 6 and 4, and literally this decision from the town has put me in a really bad situation.”
The Board of Health has reportedly denied his plea for temporary permission to remain open in a 4-1 vote, stating that allowing his request wouldn’t be fair to those who have been turned down in the past.
Kolacz has said that he looked into more than just this one location and carried out the same due diligence in investigating local permits and approvals, deciding to open his store in Framingham because there were no requirements, and acted on the advice the Health Department gave him.
Chairwoman Laura T. Housman pointed out that the permit requirement information is available on the town council website and that the staff members Kolacz spoke to during his 11-minute phone call in August might have been misinformed, or “ill informed”.
Arthur White, a Lawyer representing Vape Kings, states that Kolacz “could have done more diligence than relying upon a phone call, but I think he had good reason to believe it as he was told, ‘go ahead, you’re all set.'”.
Given that his first store had no requirement for a permit, if I were in his position in August I would have probably trusted the word of a town official as well, and I’m sure I would have made the same mistake. Simply saying that the people who gave him the wrong advice were “misinformed” shouldn’t be enough to punish the person they gave the wrong information to.
Why should Chris have to pay for the incompetence of the health official who told him to go ahead?