ANTIOCH -- The future is now even hazier for those looking to sell tobacco and related products in this city.

Antioch leaders extended a moratorium this week on permits and licenses for new "smoke shops," putting the brakes on them opening for a year.

Halting new approvals until at least May 2014 gives staff time to study and revise issues such as hours of operation, concentration of locations and proximity to schools and parks, and whether the city should adjust its rules accordingly.

"I'm all in favor of it. It gives staff time to touch bases in figuring out how to do it," Mayor Pro Tem Mary Rocha said.

The City Council established a 45-day ban on new smoke shops on May 28, citing youth exposure to tobacco products and complaints about loitering and police calls for service outside existing storefronts.

ChangeLab Solutions and the Contra Costa Tobacco Prevention Coalition have discussed options with the city for licensing ordinance and land use options.

There are a dozen smoke shops in Antioch, seven within several blocks of schools.

The moratorium is a good thing because Antioch already has too many shops, which adds to existing safety concerns, said Kamal Heishan, owner of Tower Zone Smoke Shop on Contra Loma Boulevard.


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Heishan shared two instances of how he was robbed at gunpoint of the store's inventory of cigarettes, cash and his cell phone and there "isn't enough security" via law enforcement.

"They shouldn't allow anyone until they know they can keep the shops secure," he said.

Antioch has also expressed concern that existing smoke shops are not complying with state law. A recent code enforcement inspection of 10 retailers found that all of them violated laws requiring that paraphernalia, or equipment intended for use of a controlled substance, be kept and displayed in a separate room or enclosure, Community Development Director Tina Wehrmeister said.

Heishan, who has vertical blinds separating that area of the store, says having walls up may be "dangerous," because nobody from the outside could see an attack.

Tuesday's moratorium includes a ban on allowing computer gaming businesses, more commonly called Internet Cafes, from operating inside the stores.

That language was added to the moratorium because gaming software vendors have approached smoke shops recently "apparently to avoid the application of (a 2012 Internet cafe) moratorium on such uses with more than four computers," City Attorney Lynn Tracy Nerland said.

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.