up in smoke license

Worth revokes second business license for selling illegal cigarettes

By Joe Boyle

For the second time in less than a month, the Worth Village Board has voted to revoke the license of a business in which illegal cigarettes were being sold.

The board accepted the recommendation of the Worth Police Department, which called for the license of Blowing Smoke II Inc., which did business as Up in Smoke, 11015 S. Harlem Ave., to be revoked.

The board followed that recommendation by unanimously voting to revoke the license of the business for selling cigarettes from out of state during a hearing held Sept. 21.

Moathe Abdallah, the owner of Up in Smoke, admitted that they did indeed sell illegal cigarettes from Indiana and Missouri. However, he said this occurred for a brief period dating back to July.

The police were represented by Sgt. Michael Cozzi and Deputy Chief Cris Fernandez. Cozzi said he worked undercover dating back to July. He purchased illegal cigarettes on various occasions from Up in Smoke, stating that 89 packs of illegal cigarettes were discovered.

Cozzi also said that cannabis was found on the premises but that violation was separate from the selling of the cigarettes.

Abdallah was accompanied at the hearing by the store manager, Hamza Suheil. They did not have an attorney.

“Honestly, I was wrong for the cigarette sales,” Abdallah said. “If we get our license reissued, we won’t sell any more cigarettes.”

Mayor Mary Werner then asked what would he sell?

“We would just sell tobacco,” Abdallah said. “We don’t make money off the cigarettes. We just did it to bring in more customers.”

At this point, Trustee Laura Packwood made an observation.

“You know, selling cigarettes from another state is illegal,” Packwood said.

“It was wrong but I was at my end trying to make ends meet,” Abdallah said. “All I can do is apologize.”

Trustees Pete Kats and Brad Urban believed that Abdallah is a “good guy” who made a major error in judgment.

However, Kats said the mistake was costly.

“If we were going to give you a break, what about the other business owners who would want the same consideration?”

Abdallah understood this and again apologized.

‘I respect your decision, whatever it is,” Abdallah said. “Like I said, everyone makes mistakes.”

Werner reminded Abdallah that he can appeal the decision. The mayor told him that he has 35 days to make an appeal.

“If no appeal has been made after 35 days, the decision is final,” Werner said.

Up in Smoke began operating as a business in the village in August of 2021. OG Tobacco, which was located at 11300 S. Harlem Ave., also had its license revoked due to selling illegal cigarettes during a hearing on Aug. 17.

The Worth Police Department, with the assistance of the Worth Village Board, has been working to crack down on businesses that have been selling cigarettes illegally.

Abdallah admitted that if his license was reissued, he was going to try for a couple of months to see if he could turn a profit just selling tobacco and tobacco products. He was not sure this could be done.

Werner sympathized to a degree with Abdallah.

“I hope your landlord gives you a break on your lease,” the mayor said. “Maybe this will give you the opportunity to start somewhere else.”

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