At its meeting this week, the Bethlehem Town Board approved a pair of items that will affect tobacco retailers, the most notable a requirement for all tobacco retailers to obtain a license in order to keep selling tobacco products.
Beginning in 2021, all tobacco and tobacco alternative retailers will need to obtain a license from the town, a move that Bethlehem says will help it stop sales of tobacco and vapor products to youth, prevent the sale or distribution of contraband tobacco products, reduce the proliferation of tobacco outlets and marketing, and facilitate the enforcement of tax laws and other applicable federal, state and county laws relating to tobacco products.
The fee for the license has not yet been established, but the law will require it to be renewed annually.
Additionally, the town extended a moratorium on the submission and processing of application for building permits, certificates of occupancy, and use approvals for vape shops and smoke shops for an additional six months, as a tie-in to the licensing requirement.
Once the licensing requirement goes into effect, only tobacco retailers who have been in business in the same location for 180 days prior will be able to apply for the license. After that first year and renewals begin to come in, another provision goes into effect, which requires the city to only allow a new license to be issued once two renewals have not been filed, a process that will gradually reduce the number of license holders in the town. The city has set a goal to cap the number of licenses at seven.
Licenses will also not be allowed to be transferred as part of the sale of a business, reducing the potential value of a business.
Both items passed by a 4-1 vote.
Bethlehem is a suburb of Albany, N.Y., and has a population of just over 35,000 residents.