On the evening of Tuesday, Jan. 19, the Cloquet City Council suspended the tobacco license of a local smoke shop for 10 days, in addition to setting goals for the upcoming year, voting on a hearing date for a city plan and granting the Cloquet Police Department (CPD) new vehicles.

The unanimous vote to suspend the retail tobacco license at Lakeshore Tobacco Vapor in Cloquet for 10 days resulted from the shop’s second failed compliance check in the last 24 months, according to a citation filed by city administrator Tim Peterson. In both instances, the location violated a city code that prohibits tobacco sales to minors.

During the compliance checks, CPD employed a minor who attempted to purchase a tobacco product from the shop. Both times employees at Lakeshore Tobacco Vapor completed the transaction.

“It’s a pretty big deal,” Peterson said. “We do understand that mistakes can be made … But this is the second violation within two years.”

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CPD completes compliance checks twice annually.

The shop’s first citation resulted in a $100 fine, the second in a $200 fine and a 10-day license suspension, upon which shop owner Aysar Sadi requested a hearing for the punishment.

According to Sadi, Lakeshore Tobacco Vapor rigorously trains its employees in tobacco sale procedures, and the employees that sold to the minors have been let go.

“We try our very best to be in compliance,” Sadi said. “Unfortunately some choose not to follow the law.”

Sadi emphasized that the loss of work for 10 days would be damaging to his employees, as well as to the community.

“We are not just a tobacco shop … some would say we are essential,” he said, adding that the shop not only sells tobacco products, but also CBD products, which some people rely on for help with health issues.

Following a question from council member at large Lara Wilkinson, Peterson elaborated that the 10-day suspension would not result in the closing of the store or the restriction of sales of items outside of the shop’s tobacco license.

The council also discussed its goals for the 2021 session.

Council member Sheila Lamb, of Ward 2, spoke about the city's need for designating a community center, as well as initiating conversations between the city and other Carlton County offices.

Lamb said officials need open and honest dialogue in an informal setting between the council and other organizations.

“I’m glad we’re finally at a point where we have a bit of stability,” Cloquet Mayor Roger Maki said of the council seats, voicing his desire for some kind of council retreat in the upcoming year.

In addition to setting goals, the council also set a public hearing date regarding an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Transition Plan.

Under the act, the city is required to perform a self evaluation of current transportation infrastructure policies, practices and programs, along with the condition of the Pedestrian Circulation Route/Pedestrian Access Route.

According to Cloquet Public Works director Caleb Peterson, the hearing allows for public input on the city’s plan to address ADA issues. The hearing date will be held on Feb. 2 at 7 p.m.

Following that discussion, the council voted unanimously to grant the police department's request to lease three Ford Police Interceptor Utility vehicles (SUVs) for 2021.

The total cost of the lease is expected to be $17,799.60, with an additional cost of approximately $35,000 to purchase and install squad car equipment.

The department currently possesses 13 operational vehicles, of which six are available for use by patrol officers. The expanding police department does not always have an adequate number of vehicles due to maintenance and repair needs, said Derek Randall, Cloquet Police chief.

“We can get down to the bare bones where we are struggling to get squad cars for the officers,” he said.

One of the leased vehicles is a hybrid model, which Randall acknowledged is more expensive up front, but will allow the department to save on gas costs.

Depending on how the vehicle performs during the lease period, he said the department may look at switching to all hybrid vehicle models in the future.