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Modern Age Tobacco sues city and county

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

Modern Age Tobacco and Gifts has sued the City of Gainesville and Alachua County because of their enforcement of the state Emergency Order that governs which businesses are allowed to continue to operate.

The lawsuit seeks a declaration that it meets the criteria to remain in business under both Alachua County Orders and the governor’s Executive Orders. Part of its argument is that the stores sell “CBD and Hemp based food items, a variety of medical devices for the use or ingestion of medicinal cannabis, Butane for both lighters and cooking appliances, and related products.”

Modern Age says they converted their stores to delivery-only on March 24, and no customers are allowed inside its retail locations. They take orders by phone or email, and products are delivered to customers by a store employee outside the retail building.

DeSantis’ Executive Order was issued on March 30, superseding an Alachua County Emergency Order that had allowed Modern Age to continue operating. On April 4, the City notified Modern Age that they could no longer operate unless they stopped taking credit card payments in person. In response, Modern Age says they spent over $3000 to purchase new credit card equipment that allowed them to take credit cards by phone and online.

After complying with the credit card requirement, the City sent “agents” to say Modern Age would have to stop their curbside delivery and go to deliveries completely off site. In response, Modern Age began walking the products to customers off their property.

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On April 9, “police and fire representatives” of the city visited Modern Age, stating that the business was non-essential and that they could only deliver to “home or business.”

Modern Age’s filing quotes two sections of DeSantis’ order. One, from Executive Order 2020-12, says, “all retail… businesses may perform remote work so that a business’s employees may… deliver services or products via only electronic means or mailing, shipping, or delivery services.” The second, from Executive Order 2020-91, says, “All businesses… are encouraged to provide delivery, carry-out or curbside service outside of the business or organization…”

Modern Age also argues that the “home or business” delivery requirement is not in the governor’s orders.

Modern Age is requesting a declaration that they are an “essential” business, as a retail provider of medical services and products, natural gas, and food products and a declaration that their delivery procedure is in compliance with the governor’s Orders. They are also asking for damages based on their “lost profit, loss of revenue, termination or furlough of staff and loss of customer base.”

They are requesting an emergency injunction while they wait for the case to be heard.

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