Monitor in a Minute October 2019


by Jane McClure

* Online only article

Business could lose licenses

Steps are underway to revoke city licenses for a troubled Hamline-Midway convenience store and gas station. The Midway BP Amoco at 1347 W. University Ave. has been a trouble spot in recent years, with crimes ranging from shootings to loitering. One person died in a shooting this past summer.

A licensing hearing is planned for Nov. 11 at City Hall. Staff from the city’s Police Department and Department of safety and Inspections have called the business uncooperative, as city requests for surveillance tapes and other information have gone unanswered.

The latest effort is to take away the tobacco sales and gas station city licenses, which is driving the upcoming hearing process. A recommendation on the licenses would eventually go to the St. Paul City Council, which would then hold another hearing.

Business owner Khaled Aloul, who owns other twin Cities area gas station-convenience stores, is fighting the city’s plans. Aloul in recent years has tried to do a major renovation of the business. if those plans are thwarted the business could be in jeopardy. Under a sweeping University Avenue rezoning plan adopted by the city in 2010, a new gas station-convenience store at the property likely wouldn’t allowed.

Aloul has a long history of battling with city officials. Illegal tobacco sales, shots fired calls, property code violations weapons and large late-night and early-morning gatherings outside of the business are among the many complaints about the business.

Hamline Midway Coalition is collecting comments on the business in preparation for the hearing, at

The survey asked respondents eight questions, including what if any activities they have witnessed at the business and what they’d like to see in the area there in the future. Comments are due by early November and as of late September more than 200 comments had been logged.

Peddler license dispute resolved

A Minnesota State Fair peddler license dispute dating from 2018 has been resolved. The St. Paul City Council Sept. 25 took final action on an issue involving a vendor violating city regulations on where to sell products.

Vendor Todd L. Grosklags was seen in August 2018 selling fair tickets at the corner of Snelling Avenue and Midway Parkway. That violated a regulation that sales not take place within 25 feet of a corner. Two instances of improper sales were observed within a six-day period. Grosklags got a warning for the first sale and was cited for the second sale.

The case went to the City Council but was then sent to an administrative law judge at the state level. A hearing was set for July but Grosklags never showed up. that brought a default ruling in favor of the city.

City officials in recent years have cracked down illegal instance of peddling around the Minnesota state fair, in response to neighborhood complaints.

Tobacco regulations must wait

Activists who want St. Paul retailers to raise the legal tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 21 may have a longer wait to get such a restriction enacted. Following a September 3 public hearing Council Member Dai Thao amended his proposed ordinance.

One change Thao made, which would remove penalties against underaged purchasers of tobacco products, is considered to be a substantive change. That means renotification of affected store owners and a second public hearing are needed. That will be held in mid-October.

More than three dozen people attended hearings on two Thao proposals. One would raise the legal minimum age to enter a liquor store from 18 to 21. That ordinance won approval Sept. 11. The second, more controversial ordinance, would raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco, tobacco-related devices and similar products from 18 to 21.

More than 40 people, including youth activists and e-cig store owners, attended the hearing. Several young people said that strict regulations are needed especially against vaping. Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, often referred to as vapor, which is produced by an e-cigarette or similar device.

Central High student Hayat Fathi described to the council how one of her schoolmates became very ill from vaping. Fathi said vaping is widespread at her school and among her peers. She described how pencil bags are used to conceal the small devices.

“Every bathroom at my school has a subtle fruit smell” because of vaping, she said.

Half a dozen people who own or work at stores that sell vaping equipment and supplies spoke against the ordinance. While agreeing that criminal penalties against minors should be removed, speakers said the ordinance unfairly targets their stores. They said online sales, with supplies that make users sick, should be the focus.

Jacob Bernstein is a co-owner of Imperial Vapor, 227 N. Snelling Ave. he said vaping is a way for people to stop smoking tobacco products and that has to be considered. He and other speakers described starting smoking as teenagers and then switching to vaping.

Bernstein and other store owners and employees said they don’t sell products to people who are underage. They also questioned why vaping products are regulated in the same way that tobacco products are.


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