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Buffalo plans bigger fines for corner stores, delis

Buffalo plans to increase fines when corner delicatessens and other stores violate their city licenses.

The measure is part of a campaign to deal with what’s viewed as a small but high-profile segment of corner stores creating problems in city neighborhoods.

South Council Member Christopher P. Scanlon said he’s working with Permits and Inspections Commissioner James Comerford on a new, tougher set of fines that will also include temporary closure for first and second violations, and possibly permanent closure for a third violation. The measure may be introduced as early as Tuesday, Scanlon said.

Scanlon mentioned the tougher fines during a news conference Friday morning in City Hall, when State Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy said he’s also trying to help the city deal with corner stores involved in illegal activities such as selling loose cigarettes, drug paraphernalia, stolen merchandise, or involved with Electronic Benefits Transfer card fraud.

If residents spot illegal activity in a store that sells beer, and therefore has State Liquor Authority license, they should report the activity to the SLA’s hot line number: 518-474-3114 – or file a report online at, said Kennedy, flanked by several council members.

Kennedy said he has introduced a bill in the State Senate requiring all stores with SLA licenses to post the hot line and website information inside their stores, within eyesight of consumers. The bill would also require the SLA to review all complaints.

The Common Council members at the news conference – Scanlon, Lovejoy Council Member Richard A. Fontana and University Council Member Rasheed N.C. Wyatt – spoke of problems with some of the corner stores in their districts.

Typically, the stores are given a set of restrictions before being given a city license to operate. The restrictions include such things as hours they can operate and a ban on selling items that can be used as drug paraphernalia such as glass pens. State law already prevents selling loose cigarettes, or any cigarettes without a tax stamp.

Stores that violates these provisions, Council members said, tend to be business where other types of criminal activity is occurring.

The Council members said they have had only limited success closing problem stores in the past, and hope that Kennedy’s plan to get the SLA involved, as well as Scanlon’s plan to beef up fines, will help.