Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Council Approves Vape Shop Moratorium

No new e-cigarette stores until August. City must now craft a regulatory framework.

By - Feb 7th, 2023 12:34 pm
1229-1231 E. Brady St. in 2020. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

1229-1231 E. Brady St. in 2020. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

You won’t be able to open an electronic cigarette or vape store in Milwaukee until at least August.

The Common Council unanimously approved a six-month moratorium on approving occupancy permits for such businesses Tuesday. It’s a precursor to a potential licensing or land-use framework where the location of such stores could be restricted.

“We are taking a very short break on this particular issue in order to collect ourselves, come up with the precise and appropriate legislation for long-term resolutions and protect the health, safety and welfare of our residents,” said lead sponsor Alderman Jonathan Brostoff. “This is an item that has a track record of targeting our children.”

After concerns were expressed last week about the legality of such a proposal, City Attorney Tearman Spencer and Deputy City Attorney Todd Farris issued a written legal opinion that the proposal was legal and enforceable under the city’s “police powers” to protect resident health, safety and welfare.

“We are not saying whether this is good or bad, we are saying we want neighbors, residents and the city to have a say on where these go, so they’re not too close to schools, daycares and childcare [facilities],” said co-sponsor Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic. She said she better understood the issue after Brostoff showed her the number of establishments proliferating on Brady Street in his district.

“What we are trying to do is bring regulation to an unregulated area,” said the alderwoman. She compared it to licensing Airbnb units or electric scooters. “This one is a little bit different because it involves a substance that is very harmful and additive to people, especially children.”

She reiterated that the city was not banning e-cigarettes (the use of which is commonly called “vaping”).

Ald. Mark Borkowski said the businesses have enjoyed a kind of “built-in immunity” to date. “I would hope somehow, some way, maybe it’s state legislation, to tell places like this ‘your free pass is over’,” said the co-sponsor.

Brostoff, who inherited the issue from his predecessor Nik Kovac, drew praise from Ald. Scott Spiker for his willingness to listen to feedback and adapt his proposal. It was Brostoff’s first major policy proposal. The council, led by Spiker’s predecessor Terry Witkowski, enacted a moratorium on cash-for-gold stores in 2010 to allow a land-use framework to be developed.

A revised ordinance introduced on the council floor addresses one of the concerns previously offered by Department of Neighborhood Services Commissioner Erica Roberts about impacts on convenience stores and other larger businesses. The moratorium doesn’t apply to businesses where 10% or less of the floor space is dedicated to e-cigarette sales or 10% or less of the business’ sales consist of e-cigarette devices and paraphernalia.

Businesses that are already open can continue to operate.

Mark Chambers, Jr., Russell W. Stamper, II and Common Council President Jose G. Perez signed on as co-sponsors from the council floor.

The moratorium lasts through Aug. 1, but would not go into effect until the mayor signs the ordinance.

2 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Approves Vape Shop Moratorium”

  1. nickzales says:

    You can’t make this stuff up. Milwaukee is full of bars and liquor stores. Hi-yo – they target kids. But that is okay! The liquor tax? Same as it was 50 years ago. I don’t vape, but this is the City deciding what legal businesses should profit and which should suffer. Social engineering as applied by force of government. Where are those WILL lawsuit guys? This attack on the freedom of people seems right up their alley. Safety? Police Powers? Yup, that is what the Gestapo said they were doing. This is Milwaukee, not Nazi Germany. There are plenty of things in this city that are hazardous to kids. Lead paint, being run over and being shot to death come to mind.

  2. gerrybroderick says:

    And of course the same reasoning should apply to gun manufacturers, I suppose. I don’t shoot, but should city government really be in the business of deciding who gets to shoot and who doesn’t? Afterall, who are they to decide such matters? Governance that infringes on free trade and who should prosper and who should suffer is none of the city’s business. Right? Maybe the guys at W.I.L.L can relieve us of other regulatory burdens that constrain free enterprise, like consumer fraud regulations and antitrust laws. Or other forms of social engineering that limit people’s freedoms, like light traffic signals.
    As they say: Where there’s a W.I.L.L. there’s a NAY.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us