Banana bread and key lime are only two of the hundreds of liquid nicotine flavors available for testing in Fort Collins electronic cigarette stores, but a new Fort Collins smoking ordinance has forced some store owners to stop allowing sampling inside the store.
Tasting bars that previously allowed customers to sample products inside of electronic cigarette stores have become illegal since the Fort Collins Municipal Code prohibited smoking in all public places and places of employment. With the prohibition of electronic smoking device use inside of vape stores, some local businesses have said the ordinance is counter-productive, while others are still allowing customers to vape inside.
Owner of Colorado Vapors Shane Stringer said he has been working with the city council to comply with the regulations by carding people who come into the store and not selling to minors. Stringer still allows vaping to take place at the tasting bar in his store, which is located at 2716 S. College Ave. Unit D.
“We were all, as shop owners, under the impression that we were grandfathered in before that ban was created,” Stringer said. “We called the city council and they let us know that since we are trying to be compliant, they are not going to enforce anything on (our) shop. As it stands now, we are going to let people vape in here until they tell us we can’t.”
Stringer said he hopes the city can create a separate certificate of occupancy just for vape shops, which would allow use of the electronic smoking devices to take place inside the store.
“They said if we wanted to be compliant, we had to have a certificate of occupancy that would make us a retail tobacco store,” Stringer said. “But then, they didn’t want to give us a retail tobacco license because we don’t sell tobacco or burn tobacco in the store. When the dust settles, I think the only place you’ll be able to vape in public in Fort Collins is in a vape shop.”
The ordinance states that upon obtaining a retail tobacco license, only 20 percent of the store can be designated as a smoking area.
“We called the city council and talked to them, and kind of got a pass,” Stringer said. “Not in writing, but out of their mouths. As long as we are doing everything that we can to be compliant, they are not going to enforce anything.”
Rocky Mountain Vaping is located at 1015 S. Taft Hill Rd., and their policy is to have customers go 20 feet outside of the store in order to sample products. Owner Jen Chalcraft said the ordinance has negatively affected business and has increased her store’s risk for inventory loss.
“Overall, the customers are really frustrated with the ban,” Chalcraft said. “It seems counter-productive because the ordinance was meant to protect people in public from second-hand exposure. However, the public has the option of whether or not to walk in these doors and be exposed to vapor. Where as now, we are taking it out into the parking lot. They are out there, when they could be right in here and not bothering anyone.”
Both Chalcraft and Stringer said a ventilation system would be expensive to install.
“We are a Fort Collins small business,” Chalcraft said. “With the city government supporting small business, this is totally counter-productive. It discourages (customers) from trying as much, and maybe finding something they would like.”
Chalcraft said her store will remain in compliance with the regulations, but she is in the process of looking at legal alternatives to negotiate with the city council.
Matt Ryan, owner of Vape Colorado at 2451 S. College Ave., said it is not worth the fine to allow customers to sample products inside his store, even though samples are a better way to do business.
Tyler Rap, an employee at Rocky Mountain Vaping, said if vaping is not federally regulated, the city should allow it inside of the stores.
Chalcraft said Rocky Mountain Vaping is continuing to work toward finding a solution to keep customers happy without harming anybody else in the process.
“Whatever they decide to do, we will comply,” Stringer said. “But, we want (City Council) to be informed before they make the decision. After talking with a couple of people on the staff, I feel confident that we will overcome it.”
Collegian Assistant News Editor Christina Vessa can be reached online at email@example.com or on Twitter at @chrissyvessa.