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Licenses not renewed for Bountiful e-cig businesses

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Posted at 10:46 PM, Dec 27, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-28 00:46:34-05

BOUNTIFUL, Utah -- Four e-cigarette retailers in Bountiful have just learned they have five days to find another place to do business.

In 2013, they were each issued a business license by the City of Bountiful and told they met all zoning and inspection guidelines. On Thursday, they were notified their business licenses would not be renewed for 2014 meaning they have just five days to close or relocate.

“Now how are we going to pay our bills and what are we going to do to live and survive,” said Jen Littlefield, co-owner of Vapor Dreams in Bountiful.

Vapor Dreams and three other e-cigarette retailers in Bountiful are racing the clock after receiving a letter from the city stating it could not renew their business licenses for 2014 due to state zoning laws, which prohibit e-cigarettes to be sold within so many feet of schools, parks or churches.

“The city said they are not at fault even though they issued a license,” said Lewie Lambros, co-owner of Vapor Dreams.

The owners of Vapor Dreams said this is the second time they've been put in this expensive position. After being forced to close down their Layton store for the same reason and buy out of a three year lease there, they say they were extra careful to make sure they were in compliance with all city codes and laws.

“We said who dropped the ball? Why did the city allow us to be here if we weren't supposed and they said we can`t give you that answer you need to talk to the health department,” Littlefield said.

According to the city, it's out of their hands. In a written response, the Bountiful City manager said "before becoming aware of these state restrictions, the city did issue ordinary business licenses to these businesses.  Under the law, however, we cannot renew them."

“They really are being bullied by the states, the cities, the counties ,” said Aaron Frazier, Director of Utah Vapors.

Just two doors down from Vapor Dreams is a tobacco shop called Smokey's. They have their business license for 2014 because they're exempt from the new law.

“Grandfather law works, to my understanding, with any business that was in operation prior to the passage of any of the zoning ordinances is continued to be allowed to operate and renew their license year in and year out. Smokey's were in place before the zoning restrictions went into play in 2012 they are grandfathered in and are allowed to operate as normal,” Frazier said.

The  e-cigarette stores along with Utah Vapors will meet with attorneys Saturday to try and save their businesses. Fox13 reached out to the Bountiful City attorney for an interview and got no response.