City Council revokes smoke shop’s business license a second time

Mike's Smoke Cigars & Gifts, St. George, Utah, July 10, 2014 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – For a second time, the St. George City Council revoked Mike’s Smoke & Cigar Gifts’ business license Thursday.

The City Council originally revoked the store’s business license following two raids conducted by the Washington County Drug Task Force that resulted in the arrest of Kyle Best, the store’s manager in January 2013. The arrest stemmed from the task force’s suspicion that he was selling a brand of spice called “Reborn” through the smoke shop.

Best was charged with a class-A misdemeanor offense for possessing a controlled substance with intent to distribute. He pleaded “no contest” to the charge in March.

Christina Best, Kyle Best’s sister, now manages the smoke shop, located on Sunset Boulevard, as well as another smoke shop in Washington City. She said there haven’t been any issues between the city and the store since the events surrounding her brother’s arrest.

St. George City Attorney Shawn Guzman confirmed the smoke shop’s St. George location hasn’t been a problem since the former manager’s arrest, when Councilman Jimmie Hughes asked about the matter during Thursday’s meeting.

Guzman told the council that it had the authority to revoke a business license if that business violated the law or if an employee of the business violated the law while on the business premises. Best had been arrested for doing the latter, Guzman said, and so the smoke shop’s business license was subsequently revoked.

During the council’s June 5 meeting, Ryan Holdaway, attorney for the smoke shop’s owners, argued the city was revoking the license twice for the same crime. At the time, the City Council tabled the matter.

The City Council could suspend, revoke or terminate the smoke shop’s business license based on the evidence the city had collected against the business. Guzman said.

For their part, the smoke shop owners, through Holdaway, have argued that Reborn wasn’t an illegal substance because it wasn’t spice. That is, it didn’t contain chemicals listed as illegal by the state. However, the city argues the chemicals used in Reborn are designed to mimic the effects of spice, which itself is a synthetic drug designed to mimic the effects of marijuana. Tests conducted on Reborn samples sent to the Utah Crime Lab by the task force support the city’s claim that chemicals found in the samples are spice mimics, Guzman said.

Spice wasn’t considered an illegal substance until late 2010, when a handful of chemicals used to make the synthetic drug at the time were outlawed by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Since then, new chemicals have been added to national and state listings as spice makers attempt to stay a step ahead of the law by using new chemicals not yet listed as illegal by authorities.

Guzman said a danger of spice is that buyers never quite know what they’re getting as the synthetic blend can be a potentially deadly a mishmash of chemicals.

“It’s totally uncontrolled,” he said.

When Mike’s Smoke & Cigar Gifts was raided, chemicals found in Reborn, such as XLR-11, were not considered illegal, Holdaway previously said. The store owners also maintain they didn’t know the substance they were selling was considered by the city and state to be illegal in the first place.

Councilwoman Michele Randall doesn’t agree. During the meeting, she said she believed the smoke shop owners knew what they were selling and were complicit in the matter.

XLR-11 has since been added to the state’s list of prohibited spice analogs, or chemically created mimics, Guzman said.

“It’s the position of the city that it is illegal,” he said.

Before the City Council took a vote, Guzman emphasized the council was voting on possibly revoking the business license based on the sale of an illegal substance at the smoke shop and not because the council disapproved of the shop itself.

The city is pro-business, Mayor Jon Pike said, adding the City Council has a responsibility to uphold the law and promote public safety.

The City Council voted unanimously to revoke the smoke shop’s license for a second time.

Following the council meeting, Christina Best reiterated that the St. George location hadn’t had any trouble with police or the city aside from the license issue.

“We’re extremely strict,” she said, adding that anyone attempting to enter the smoke shop, let alone buy anything inside, has to be the appropriate age.

As her family owns and manages the stores, Christina Best said, the ordeal of the last 18 months hasn’t gone well for them.

“This whole thing has torn the family apart,” she said.

In contrast to how events have transpired between the city and the St. George location, the Washington City store has had no major issues, Christina Best said. She has been able to work out any potential issues between the smoke shop and Washington City officials without much trouble.

Between the two store locations, 10 workers are employed, she said.

The St. George location may remain open for the time being until the city issues an official notice of revocation with a specific date attached, Guzman said.

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48 Comments

  • Dana July 11, 2014 at 8:11 am

    “Before the City Council took a vote, Guzman emphasized the council was voting on possibly revoking the business license based on the sale of an illegal substance at the smoke shop and not because the council disapproved of the shop itself.”

    I call Bull!

    • kin July 12, 2014 at 12:02 pm

      Well, if you’re going to cry “bull”, add to that Christina’s comment: ““We’re extremely strict,” she said, adding that anyone attempting to enter the smoke shop, let alone buy anything inside, had to be the appropriate age.”

      My kids were waiting for a haircut at the shop next door, and they walked inside Mikes smoke shop to check out some things that were displayed in the window. All three of them were in there for a few minutes and no one said anything to them about needing to leave.

      • Bad Parent July 12, 2014 at 2:46 pm

        Why did you let your kids go inside the smoke shop? Did you send them in to buy something for you in case your neighbor was watching you?

        • Eddantes July 12, 2014 at 6:38 pm

          What a silly straw-man argument. Typical fascist liberal trying demonize anyone who doesn’t want to bring Chicago, NYC or Detroit to southern Utah.

          • miabebe April 22, 2015 at 8:20 pm

            Do you even know what fascist means? lol, conservatives are the fascists!

  • JOSH DALTON July 11, 2014 at 8:50 am

    WHY? So why don’t they shut down every Corner store and DABC. Nothing sold at his store can hurt anybody. Well if you drop your “water pipe” in the bathroom and not sweep then step on some glass. Then you can get injured. Corner stores sell cigs and those are proven to kill you. You can also die from drinking to much alcohol. Buying a Hookah is not going to kill you. What people do with the products might be illegal but that is the consumers right. They haven’t stopped selling roses or baking soda!

  • SAGEMOON July 11, 2014 at 9:30 am

    “Guzman emphasized the council was voting on possibly revoking the business license based on the sale of an illegal substance at the smoke shop and not because the council disapproved of the shop itself.” Give me a break. Of course the city council disapproves of the business. The criminal actions of the business have been taken care of. Now the city is just out to shut them down. Small business friendly, my butt! Shame on the city council for not just saying how it really is. Just goes to show you can’t trust a politician. They know sooo much better than the Courts how to punish a business.

  • Devan Stringham July 11, 2014 at 10:44 am

    Here is a Fact the Chemicals Found in Reborn where not Illegal at the time of the Raid, and arrest of Kyle Best. However the chemical that was in question was later added to the Illegal Chemicals list after his arrest. So my question is how was a crime committed if there was nothing currently Illegal with one of the products they where selling at the time of his arrest? To me it sounds like a Police Officer / Task Force could raid your home, or business claim that your are doing something Illegal (even though by law you are not), but then turn around, and make it Illegal 3 Months later. Then prosecute for a Crime that is now Illegal, but was not Illegal at the time of arrest.

    • THAT GUY July 12, 2014 at 6:18 am

      There you go common core policeing arrest first make it illegal after the fact then prosecute.

  • St. George Resident July 11, 2014 at 10:49 am

    This is such BS. I’m not even a smoker, but I’m also not a kool-aid drinking member of the religious cult that runs this place (at least not anymore, thank the goblins). Check back through history and know the real reasons behind section 89 of your D&C. It has nothing to do with “God” telling Joseph Smith anything and everything to do with the church being miffed that it couldn’t collect revenue on tobacco and alcohol products being produced outside of Utah territory and sold here. And yet today we have more of the same. This is actually a business that raises a good tax revenue and the city council–run by Cult, Inc.–is just shooing them out the door. Bunch of idiots.

    • Rachel July 11, 2014 at 2:04 pm

      Uncalled for and extremely offensive (especially in relation to the kool-aid). Just because you do not believe as another does not make it right to abuse their beliefs (even if some of them abuse yours).

      • Get over it. July 11, 2014 at 7:17 pm

        The rest of us are tired of the daily abuse we receive from people who partake in the drinking of the kool-aid. Get with the times, WashCo!

      • uh huh July 12, 2014 at 6:30 am

        I agree. Not nice to call names.

        • St. George Resident July 13, 2014 at 1:40 am

          Not nice to call names…but it’s perfectly fine for religion to call people a “sinner”.
          Hypocrite much?

          • NEVER LEARN July 13, 2014 at 6:54 am

            True dat….

      • Judgemental People July 12, 2014 at 9:17 am

        St George, where drinking the holy koolaid is okay but smoking isn’t

        • St. George Resident July 13, 2014 at 1:41 am

          How about the ones who ostentatiously tell you they don’t drink coffee because of their religion, but they will chug energy drinks left and right. Apparently, it’s only the temperature of the caffeine that matters. 😉

          • NEVER LEARN July 13, 2014 at 6:56 am

            Yes…..I have a friend who is of a particular religion and she drinks pop likes it going out of style. Its true, tell people what they cant have and that is exactly what they will want!

          • sing4money July 13, 2014 at 6:57 am

            that my favorite.

    • Eddantes July 12, 2014 at 6:42 pm

      Typical foolish argument that this “is a good business raising tax revenue”. Same argument all of the decaying urban centers in the U.S. have said for decades.

      Another lefty with the fascist hammer mentality; either the community changes its standard to fit mine or they are all evil.

      • St. George Resident July 13, 2014 at 1:54 am

        Many so-called “urban centers” are thriving, especially in Blue states. Urban centers that have turned themselves around have done so because of investment in infrastructure and attracting businesses that provide employment AND tax revenues.
        Urban centers in decline are usually because of things like racism and lack of investment in infrastructure due to bad planning. Chasing out good businesses doesn’t help anyone. Maybe you don’t like this guys’ business but he’s not located near a school or a church or a residential area and they haven’t had any further issues with law enforcement. This is a case of Mormons discriminating against non-Mormons or Apostates or whatever they call us who don’t drink the tainted cult kool-aid.

  • G.S. HALE July 11, 2014 at 11:55 am

    If the crux of the argument for closing the Saint George location is that the substance is now controlled by the state why does the state not close both locations? And since it was not a controlled substance at the time and the activity stopped when the individual was terminated – how is this not double jeopardy for the same alleged crime of distributing a (not yet) controlled substance?

    The council the mayor and Guzman can say whatever they want but this is a old school witch hunt plain and simple. They don’t want to see a store like this in their city. Diversity is not a big part of their standards unless it is a local politicians photo op.

    Opinion should not prohibit free enterprise in the United States or Utah or Washington County or the City of St. George the law should.

    What law was broken here? This article clearly states and by Guzman and the city’s own admission that the substance was not a classified substance at the time of the raid on the store. It is an opinion that they were knowingly doing something wrong – not a fact. For all we know he might have thought that the substance he was selling was a healthy alternative to actual spice – regardless of the the circumstances it was not an illegal substance at the time.

    What is fact is that an individual entered a no contest plea for a lesser penalty for doing nothing wrong. This poor bastard should have had a better attorney. He essentially waived his constitutional rights and decided not to defend himself in exchange for a lesser charge for what? Selling something that was not illegal to sell.

    Another fact is that in order to keep their doors open the business complied with the city by terminating the individual and making sure none of their other employees perpetrated the same activities – for a few years. That’s right for a few years no one sold anything that might one day be a controlled substance.

    And now with no new incidents and for something that an individual (whose only present relationship to the company is his relationship to his sister) did in the past this business can no longer operate in St. George city limits. ” ‘Merica! ”

    This wrong and if you have any sense fairness you should agree. I demand to know why this business has been singled out. I am sure there is someone involved from the city’s point of view that would like to take a stab at explaining this in a pragmatic way.

    I would also recommend that the business seek the services of a better attorney and perhaps some non-profit legal fund that could help them get their case heard by a higher court.

    My opinion is that I am fairly certain this has to do with someone in the councils social circle having the point of view that a store of this kind does not meet the high standards of their church.

    Let me be clear I have have no stake in this other than the fact that the citizenship of this City does not seem to understand that even local government can screw you not just the one in Washington. This is a violation of the rights of a legal free enterprise.

    • St. George Resident July 13, 2014 at 1:56 am

      I totally agree, and I hope this guy sues the bejeezus out of the city.

  • jay lovewell July 11, 2014 at 11:56 am

    This is crap and had to be stopped city officials think they can do whatever they want. I think Guzman should be fired for bending the laws as he see fit. I don’t believe in using drugs but if it was not illegal at the time off the raid then there is no crime. He should be ashamed. The country should not be ran with Mormon influence.

  • jay lovewell July 11, 2014 at 11:57 am

    I meant county not country

    • St. George Resident July 13, 2014 at 1:57 am

      Both fit, actually.

  • lp July 11, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    I dont know why having pipes at this business is a big deal. Earrings and More on North Bluff sells the same stuff.

  • That which you judge you will become July 11, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    Also,if they are getting the brunt of the blame for selling anything someone could buy to do drugs with,then gas stations should get blame also. That is where most teens get rolling papers and cigars that they cut open and fill with marijuana. Or,lets take away all products that come in a soda can. Those can be used to smoke. And lets outlaw socket sets. And salt and pepper shakers. …..Lets outlaw everything. If kids cant Spice from there,they will just ask one of the people they go to school or church with to get them weed,heroin,meth or pills. Revoking this business license is going to do absolutely nothing. People always have and always will do drugs. Look up most of the great minds in science or math. They all used a mind altering substance to help them come up with the ideas that changed the world….are they useless to society? There are more people in this world that dont do drugs that are a worse problem for the rest of us. And most people who do drugs have been abused horribly by those closest to them but the people who caused the addict to use drugs doesnt get looked down upon.

  • newnonmember July 11, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    “We’re extremely strict” and adding they reinforce the age limit of who can come in.
    Really?! Because I’ve gone in there and purchased hookah tobacco with my 18 year old friend and her 2 year old. Never once was anything said, or ID’s checked.
    I definetly call bullocks. She’s just trying to cover what little a** she has left.

    • Dana July 12, 2014 at 6:00 am

      YOU purchased, not your 2 year old.

  • Priorities July 11, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    I don’t get it. Boys can assault girls and no problem per the community and the police and code and enforcement. Somebody smokes a cigarette or doesn’t pull the weeds in their yard, then expect all … to rain down upon you. Welcome to St George!
    Ed. ellipsis.

    • Eddantes July 12, 2014 at 6:54 pm

      What an absolute lie. Liberal trolls that spew generalities have infected the entire country. You have the right to do so but we aren’t sitting back any more without responding to your generalities. The idea that this community which is made of many more than just LDS folks, would stand by and let boys assault girls, is ludricrous.

      Maybe we should bring your Chicago or NYC or Detroit community standards to southern Utah; then we can begin day after day of rapes, shootings, muggings, etc.

  • St George Resident July 11, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    I agree with many of the previous comments. My husband and I are simply appalled by the actions of our city council. My understanding is that the smoke shop signed a stipulation agreement with the city which they upheld. The city then recinds on their agreement and revokes their license anyway. What am I missing? I am convinced that the council is voting on emotion as evidenced by Ms. Randall’s comment.

    • Jen Lindley July 11, 2014 at 8:44 pm

      The city has been looking to rid itself of the smoke shop for years. What happened only gave them the reason they were looking for. Things like this are the reason why I am neither Mormon or Republican. Shame on you, city council, shame on you.

  • HUD July 11, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    Thank my various gods for Spencers!

  • Priorities July 11, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    St George… where people are okay with marrying off their 14 year old girls to their 40 year old uncles. Long live polygamy!

  • ok July 12, 2014 at 1:17 am

    Abuse of power . New mayor wont stand another term if he gets of on the wrong foot. Why not hold a vote from resedents

  • Dana July 12, 2014 at 6:02 am

    Are we going to see a good old boy opening a similar shop soon? Is that the real reason to drive this shop out of business?

  • sing4money July 12, 2014 at 6:22 am

    I think we should help this business, not because we like the products they sell, but because we need to make sure rights are not being violated. If it can happen to him, it can happen to you. The guy selling this stuff is a jerk, I know it wasnt illegal but it still causes alot of harm to the jerks that buy it BUT, that doesnt mean the rights of the business owner should be negated because the City doesnt like what he sells.

  • Mary July 12, 2014 at 9:02 am

    Given that ” spice ” / “bath salts” is the stuff that makes people super psycho ,
    ( think of the guy in Florida who was eating another guys face while he was alive ! and many other incidents )
    ANYONE who distributes it is as evil as a heroin dealer .

    Even a first offense should be grounds for a shut down until the property is cleared , and a 2nd offense should be prison time .

    • Dana July 12, 2014 at 9:33 am

      Given that so many people abuse food, should we also go after anyone who distributes food? This is not about the sale of spice or any ingredient that mimics spice. This is about a handful of people who are so puckered up they got their undies in a twist. Why else would Guzman feel the need to insert his little disclaimer of “… revoking the business license based on the sale of an illegal substance at the smoke shop and not because the council disapproved of the shop itself.”
      It’s all smoke and mirrors.

    • YEP... July 12, 2014 at 10:39 am

      I agree all evil things should be shut down…cigarettes, alcohol, opression of women, coffee, tea, bathing suits, sleevless shirts, hot drinks, birth control, free speech, fast food, organic food, weeds in yard, anything else I missed, please feel free to add….

      • Bad Parent July 12, 2014 at 2:49 pm

        Yep… more laws and government control, because parents can’t control their own kids.

    • St. George Resident July 13, 2014 at 2:02 am

      Religion makes people more “super psycho”

      • NEVER LEARN July 13, 2014 at 6:53 am

        Not religion, but the quest to think you can become the “best” at it is what makes so many seem so odd……

    • SHAME ON THIS FAMILY September 20, 2014 at 12:23 pm

      AMEN.

  • SHAME ON THIS FAMILY September 20, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    I HAVE A GREAT IDEA….I U WANT SPICE & BATH SALTS GO TO MIKES.
    IF NOT BAND TOGETHER AS A COMMUNITY & REFUSE TO SHOP THERE. THIS FAMILY KNOWS THE DAMAGES THESE PRODUCTS CAUSE YET CONTINUE TO ORDER & SELL EVEN TO MINORS THIS NEW REPACKAGED ITEMS. ASK FOR INCENSE OR TAKE IN UR OLD PACKAGE & ASK FOR SOMETHING COMPARABLE. THEY WILL HELP YOU KILL URSELF …ACCORDING TO THE DR AFTER LOOKING AT THE CHEMICALS INGESTED AS LISTED ON THE PACKAGE HE CLAIMED IS WAS COMPARABLE TO SMOKING CRYSTAL METH IN THAT THE EFFECTS IT CAUSES ON THE LUNGS IS CRYSTALLIZATION.
    SAVE YOUR MONEY..LOL

  • SHAME ON THIS FAMILY September 20, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    NOT ALL MORMONS R GOOD MORMONS. PAY YOUR 10% MAKE AMENDS AND WELCOME BACK….NO EXCOMMUNICATION FOR THIS FAMILY. THEY WILL JUST CHANGE THE NAME IF FORCED TO CLOSE DOWN. THEY R SELLING POSION & KNOW IT. THEY R JUST ANOTHER FORM OF A DRUG DEALER OUT 4 EASY MONEY

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