By Gord Bowes, News staff
A central Mountain variety store is closed for seven weeks after its food and tobacco licences were suspended by the city.
The Hamilton Licensing Tribunal chose to immediately suspend Big Bear franchise owner Ajay Vankar’s food premises and tobacco retailer licences when they were renewed on Oct. 10.
The tribunal yanked the required paperwork for 49 days because Vankar flouted a previous direction not to operate without a licence.
Despite what a sign on the door of the Big Bear says about being forced to close “for no legal reason” by four councillors following a “deceitful hearing,” the tribunal had no choice but to impose the suspensions, said central Mountain councillor Scott Duvall.
The Big Bear Food Mart at 580 Fennel Ave. East has a history of health and tobacco infractions over the last four years. The infractions include selling cigarettes to minors on three occasions, not having required signs under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, selling tobacco products while prohibited, operating without a food premises licence and being found with expired food products on four occasions.
Vankar was informed in June that his food and tobacco licences would not be renewed.He appealed at a tribunal hearing in August, but then asked for an adjournment until October.
He was told not to operate without them, but continued to open his store.
“We just can’t allow that,” said Duvall, who sits on the tribunal. “There’s a process and it has to be followed.
“I’m disappointed he would continue to operate after being given good advice and being warned of the consequences.”
Vankar told the Mountain News that on Aug. 21 he and his lawyer asked if they could continue to operate until the Oct. 10 hearing.
“They didn’t say ‘No,’ ” he said.
He said in his defence the infractions were between 2009 and 20011, a period where his mind was not fully on the business because his wife was battling cancer. She died in August 2011.
Since then, Vankar said, he’s been doing his best to comply with all licencing regulations.
The shopkeeper said to stay open during the 49-day suspension, he’d have to remove all food items and tobacco products from the store, which would discourage patrons from shopping at his store.
He called said the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.
“It’s killing me,” Vankar said. “I cannot generate even part of the rent.”
He said he hopes to reopen in late November.