What’s the cost of business? A store owner in Los Angeles can tell you it’s 20 grand — just to remain open.
As reported by The Los Angeles Times, businesswoman Natali Mishali — proprietor of the DTLA Smoke Shop — claims she’s had to shell out more than $20,000 in legal fees in the battle to open her store amid a pandemic-inspired government grip.
To be clear, despite the store’s dealing with tobacco products, it also sells snacks, groceries, and cleaning supplies.
Therefore, in 30-year-old Natali’s eyes, it’s an essential business.
LA County’s March 19th Safer at Home Order for Control of COVID-19 indicated essential establishments include those selling groceries and cleaning products.
Multiple times, police officers came into her store to ensure she was in compliance.
But then things changed.
From the Times:
On April 3, Mishali, 30, became one of the first four people criminally charged with violating orders meant to slow the spread of the virus. The other businesses included another smoke shop, a shoe store and a discount electronics retailer.
She believes a different store name could’ve saved her:
“If the name of my business was Downtown LA Convenience Store and Smoke Shop,” Mishali says, she thinks she would not have been criminally charged. “But…we only have smoke shop in our name.”
Given that she hawked food items such as Pop Tarts, cereal, cookies, soup, soft drinks, chips, paper towels, bleach, and all-purpose cleaner, she fought for her rights. During every inspection:
“They would come in, either leave the ordinance with me or tell me I had to shut down and I kept showing them that the shop was following the mayor’s order. I was told I could continue to operate my business and then they would show up again and drop the same order the next day.”
Finally, the government made her close up shop.
She spent three weeks getting her house in order:
“The city insisted on shutting us down, and we spent the last three weeks just working and doing everything we could to get back open. We got our confirmations from the county, and we did everything we possibly could to have an answer for anything the city could throw at us.”
Last Friday, on the advice of her lawyer, she once again opened her doors.
As for the $20,000 she had to fork over in the fight, she claims she lost more than that over three weeks due to two shops closing.
And she assured the Times:
“We are an essential business. Some might not like the tobacco aspect of our business, but if we have the permits and we sell food, we should be allowed to be open.”
It’s been a bumpy, bumpy road, and it is one, still — the Times observes she’s set for an arraignment in early July. Ultimately, she could have to pay a $1,000 fine and spend up to half a year in the Clink.
Just for trying to keep her business to herself.
Even so, there may be better days coming: On Tuesday, California Gavin Newsom — along with Department of Public Health chief Dr. Sonia Angell — announced a plan for reopening the state. Phase 2 will include retail operations opening — within the next few weeks.
As for “higher risk work places” — nail salons, crowd-attended houses of worship, etc. — their return may come, as per the governor, in “not weeks, but months.”
Meanwhile, folks are warring for her livelihoods — in the court system.
ABC News reports that seven businesspeople have filed a lawsuit against Newsom, claiming he’s robbed them of their means of getting by.
Lead attorney Mark Geragos explained the situation to ABC:
“We’ve got small businesses that have been effectively put out of business or forced to close literally without rhyme or reason.”
In the view of the plaintiffs, the constitution is being thrashed.
“Our country was built on the premise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, Geragos asserted. “And today, in 2020, those freedoms are being stripped away from law-abiding citizens and businesses, without rational thought or a rational basis.”
Additionally targeted by the suit: LA Mayor Eric Garcetti; Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and Ventura counties; the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors; the Los Angeles Public Health Officer; the Sheriff of Los Angeles; and the State of California Public Health Officer.
Gavin’s also being sued for disallowing citizens from protesting the shutdown.
I imagine when (if?) all this is over, there are gonna be a whole lot of lawsuits across the country. Governments are painting with the broadest of strokes, and the citizenry’s losing civil rights and critical income. And some of that damage won’t be able to be undone.