Buffalo's corner stores, the target of surprise inspections this summer, moved a step closer Tuesday to a new type of scrutiny -- licensing by City Hall.
The Common Council approved a measure that asks the city Law Department to draft legislation aimed at regulating corner store delicatessens.
The vote follows a four-month string of unannounced inspections at several East Side delis, many of them in poor, inner-city neighborhoods that have no other food stores.
"We just want to make sure they adhere to some minimum standard, that they be healthy, clean and safe," said Fillmore Council David Franczyk, sponsor of the measure.
Since July, the delis have been the target of a task force that includes law enforcement, federal immigration, state tax and city inspections officials.
The inspections have resulted in a wide range of charges, from building and health code violations to the employment of illegal aliens. Authorities also have seized illegal weapons, drug paraphernalia, untaxed cigarettes and contaminated food products.
Franczyk said the delis often pop up overnight without the city's knowledge and, when poorly managed, can become a health threat or the sites of criminal activity.
The inspections have come under criticism by the New York Civil Liberties Union, in part because many of the delis targeted by the city's task force are owned by Arab-Americans.
In other action, the Council:
Asked the Masiello administration to study the feasibility of a payroll tax on city employees who live outside the city. Mayor Masiello said he would support the tax but only if city lawyers consider it legal.
Rejected a lease for the vacant newsstand at Delaware and Hertel avenues. City officials claim the newsstand, which was shut down earlier this year, operated on city land for 16 years without ever paying rent.
Got its first look at a draft sales agreement for Bennett Beach, the city-owned property in the Town of Evans. Supporters plan to vote on the sale to Erie County at the next Council meeting.
Delayed action on a plan authorizing nine new telecommunications towers in the city. In return, Sprint Spectrum -- the company proposing the towers -- has agreed to consider paying a franchise fee to the city.