By Kevin Godbee
The landlord for the Bull & Bear Tobacco Shop is trying to evict them because of complaints about smoking. The matter has gone to court.
Bull & Bear’s lease explicitly states that smoking will be allowed "in and upon the premises" … and they have been there for 14 years!
|UPDATE: SEPTEMBER 11, 2011 – In a statement to PipesMagazine.com after our follow up email, Zee Harmon, the owner of Bull & Bear said; "The judge agreed to hear ‘summary judgment’ of our case, and we are pleased that he ruled in our favor. We look forward to continue offering fine cigars, pipes, and smoking accessories to our customers as we have done the past 16 years."|
So why all of a sudden is there a problem?
In this writer’s opinion it’s about two things … and I bet you already guessed them. 1) Money (It’s almost always about money), and 2) Vilification of smokers.
It’s ironic that St. Charles, Illinois is home to the largest and longest running pipe & tobacco show in the world, but now pipe and cigar smokers (and a small business) are being discriminated against there.
Last May, while attending the The Chicagoland Int’l Pipe & Tobacciana Show, we paid a visit, and published an article on the Bull & Bear Tobacco Shop. This is a fabulous tobacconist with an impressive array of cigars, pipes and tobaccos, and a comfortable smoking lounge. Suddenly, after 14 years of smoking at Bull & Bear, and having a lease that allows it, Bull & Bear’s landlord is trying to evict them.
The landlord, ShoDeen Management, says there are complaints from other tenants in the strip mall about the smell of smoke. ShoDeen Management says that unpleasant odors are coming from the store and the smoke makes it unsanitary and, thus, violating the lease.
"We’re just asking the court to uphold our lease rights," said Tracy Stevenson, attorney for the Gintanas LLC, which owns the shop. "The lease specifically allows us to smoke in the unit. We don’t feel this is a breach of the lease."
In a lawsuit filed in Kane County in February 2011, Stevenson cites a 1997 lease that explicitly states that smoking will be allowed "in and upon the premises" at 1 W. Illinois St., Suites 1110 and 120. The lawsuit was filed after discussing the issue for a year, and finally an eviction notice being served.
The suit, which asks a judge to rule on whether the lease has been violated, also notes numerous air filters, purifiers and ionization units, along with an exhaust vent, the tenant installed and maintains to minimize the odor.
The suit also seeks to have ShoDeen fix cracks in the walls or ceiling if smoke is seeping through to other areas.
The suit contends that ShoDeen told the Bull & Bear staff on Feb. 10 there were complaints of smoke emanating from the store and on Feb. 21, ShoDeen sent a notice, saying the tenant had 20 days to correct lease violations for "unpleasant odors" coming from the store.
Phone messages left at ShoDeen’s Geneva office and with its Chicago attorney were not returned.
Stevenson said ShoDeen has not responded to their efforts to resolve the situation so court was a last resort. Stevenson said her client recently renewed the lease through 2014.
This is where the money part comes in.
In addition to the ever-popular sport of demonizing smokers, we all know that rents go up when old tenants move out and new tenants move in.
Feedback from neighbors was mixed.
A woman who answered the phone at Illusions Hair and Nail Salon, which is next door to the tobacco shop, said customers complain all the time about the smell and one woman’s coat smelled so bad she thought it was hung next to a stylist who smokes.
"This is a huge issue," said the stylist, who declined to give her name. A message left with the salon owner was not returned.
Kimberly Elam, owner of Kimmers Ice Cream, also at 1 W. Illinois St., said the smoke has not been an issue since she bought the ice cream shop four months ago.
The manager at Bistro One West, a restaurant in same building to the east, also said the smell is not a concern. Officials at ALE Solutions, which is in an office suite above the tobacco shop, declined to comment.
When I spoke to store owner Zita Harmon yesterday, she asserted that several employees of her neighboring tenants go outside to smoke cigarettes and then return to work. "Isn’t it more likely that they are smelling the smoke on their own co-workers standing right next to them than from a lounge 100 feet away with a professional air filtration system?"
For the smokers in the audience, which are probably most of you, have you ever seen something like this … You are walking down the street with your UNLIT pipe (or cigar) in your mouth and as you are approaching someone they cover their nose or fake cough as a way of protest? That is what is going on in St. Charles. The smell of smoke 20, 30, 40, 50 feet away is imaginary.
For those of you that have the luxury of smoking in your own home, you will understand the next part very well. Some of us smoke in our homes and have no air purifiers or filtration systems. I think we can admit that the house does smell like someone smokes in it. Others may have air purifiers and such, and the smell of smoke may or may not be detectable. Bull & Bear has one of the best air filtration systems on the market. An individual smoking in you own home is one thing. Now think of a smoking lounge with several people smoking pipes and cigars every day. When I personally visited Bull & Bear there was no detectable odor whatsoever. This was between 10:30 – 11:00 am. No one was smoking at the time. The point is that the filtration system did its’ job so well that there were no traces that smoking had taken place.
Bull & Bear has asked a judge to immediately rule that it has the right, under its lease, to allow patrons to smoke in their lounge.
The motion is scheduled to be argued before a Kane County judge in Geneva on Aug. 31. The judge will then rule on whether the matter should be resolved at that time or go to trial later.
Kevin Godbee is the Operating Manager of Right Click Media, LLC, which is the the owner & publisher of PipesMagazine.com. Kevin started smoking pipes and cigars in 1998 and started the online magazine & community site, Cigar-Review.com in 2005. The site was acquired in 2008 and no longer exists. PipesMagazine.com was launched in 2009.
In the beginning of his career, Kevin worked in the hobby and specialty toy business for 16 years in sales, marketing, advertising and product development for three different manufacturers, and with his own company.
Over the last 10 years working in the online business, he has become an expert in Internet Marketing and SEO. Kevin is also a Certified Salesforce Tobacconist (CST) through Tobacconist University. In his spare time he sings, plays guitar, cooks, and takes long walks on the beach. (Seriously, you should see how tan he is right now.) Kevin can be reached at 976-DUDE.