HAMMOND | A city board once again has denied a business license for a tobacco store wanting to operate at the southeast corner of 175th Street and Calumet Avenue.
The denial is amid concerns the business would lead to the comeback of a fireworks stand, which drew complaints from nearby residents.
The Hammond Board of Public Works and Safety reaffirmed its denial of a business license for Exit One Tobacco Inc. this month because its five-year lease had a provision allowing the operation of a fireworks store from May to July of each year.
Under the lease, the fireworks store would be occupied by Ghassan Odtallah, who operated the stand when the business license was revoked in July following neighbors' complaints of noise and traffic obstructions, according to the board's findings.
City Attorney Kris Kantar said it's the city's position that the tobacco business is just a “scam” to allow fireworks to be sold out of the building again.
“This is just a way around it,” Kantar told the board at an April 18 hearing.
The tobacco store's owner, Mohammad Awad, stressed to board members he had no connection with Odtallah or his family, and he was simply a lessee of 7509 Calumet Ave. Awad, who runs three retail tobacco stores in Illinois, requested the board appeal its decision.
“It's my understanding there have been some problems with the Odtallah family in the city of Hammond; however, Exit One Tobacco is not affiliated with the Odtallah family whatsoever,” said Awad's attorney, John Terpstra.
Terpstra declined to comment on the board's decision Thursday.
Odtallah previously told the board in July that he just worked at the stand and his brother owned the business.
A number listed for Odtallah in Whiting rang disconnected.