Mac’s and other tobacco shops sue city, saying ban will destroy their businesses

Mac's Smoke Shop, 534 Emerson St., opened in 1934. Post photo.

Daily Post Staff Writer

The owners of five Palo Alto retailers including Mac’s Smoke Shop today filed a lawsuit against the city, saying City Council’s flavored tobacco ban will destroy their businesses and put their families on the street.

City Council voted 4-3 in May to ban the sale of vaping products like Juul and flavored tobacco to stop kids from picking up the habit. The ban will likely result in the closure of the 86-year old Mac’s at 534 Emerson St. and four other businesses — Hookah Nights Lounge, Smokes & More, Smokes & Vapes and Raw Smoke Shop.

“We’re drowning rats trying to hold on to everything we can to save ourselves,” Mac’s owner Neil Khoury said today.

Khoury said the owners of the five businesses don’t have time to finish selling off their inventory before they have to shut down. He said they have all taken out loans and owe rent and utility money. Khoury said without relief, the business owners at risk of losing their homes.

“We are in so much debt with COVID-19 that if we don’t have an extension, we will all be homeless,” he said.

He said it isn’t fair that the city is targeting flavored tobacco and not other tobacco products or products like alcohol.

He pointed out that City Manager Ed Shikada originally proposed an exemption to help the five small businesses stay afloat.  But Councilwomen Lydia Kou and Alison Cormack and Councilmen Eric Filseth and Greg Tanaka decided to ban flavored tobacco without exception.

Kou and Tanaka are up for re-election this November.


  1. Why is it the City’s responsibility to keep them afloat?
    Why is it the government’s responsibility to keep them in business?

    Separation of government…

    • I agree, it is. Not the responsibility of the City to keep them in business, especially if the products are meant to addict children To a dangerous product.

      • So, is alcohol addictive??? Yes it is, why not ban it too!! Your logic is silly, does this answer your concerns carol, there are plenty of addictive products in the market, unless you ban them all, government should not ban selected ones.

        • One step at a time. Vape is the worst product that humans have come up with in recent history. They have nothing good about them that needs protections.

  2. It’s not the governments responsibility. Free market.

    If their business goes under, they can apply for assistance programs until they get back on their feet.
    But to sue the City? For what?

    • Because city made exemptions for other businesses to survive, and took away exemptions from them to take them out, do you see the difference??? It’s called Dictatorship and discrimination.

    • Plus, they can get into a business that is not harmful for the community in that case they will not need “saving” Business have to reinvent every time the need changes. I am sure, they had not been selling vape products since the beginning of time!!

  3. Although I am a non-smoker, I go to mac’s for newspapers and occasional candy items. Mac’s has been around since WW II. Regulating them out of business in the middle of the C-19 crisis for selling a Legal product is heartless and arrogant. It’s certainly not what I voted for when I voted to elect the city Council.

  4. Closing them based on the premise of “protecting our kids” is beyond ridiculous, how is closing all five businesses going to protect them, have the city council drafted a plan to execute once they are gone!! Are they going to shut down internet access in Palo Alto, or prevent kids from driving to next town, or maybe lock the kids at home so they can’t get any !!! How about a street corner getting it illegally, are the police going to keep an eye on all street corners??? Ok, I get it, no real plan, because it’s impossible, kids are just a smoke screen for political reasons, it’s an election year after all, now that makes real sense!!

    • No one is closing their business. Only thing that is happening is regulating the product that should never have been in open market to begin with. If you think this is the only product they sell, you are clearly mistaken. Everyone has a choice. Let them make a choice that helps the community instead of hurt. They do not need to close to make some adjustments in their business model.

  5. Clara,
    It is not “free market” if the government steps in and prevent you from doing the business you’ve been in for decades. That would be anything but free market. I would rather see the city council members go then lose Mac’s smoke shop.

  6. It’s ridiculous that stores who are taking proper precautions during COVID are being punished. This is an absolute outrage and people need to realize that these stores bring a lively, profitable, and safe environment to the city of Palo Alto all while maintaining social distancing.

    • This legislation has been in making since before COVID. What would you say if there was no COVID? Do you think it would be OK to enforce this legislation if it not COVID? If so, COVID will not stay here forever. But this legislation will.

  7. It is always sad when a business can’t survive. Marketplaces tend to change over time with new information and trends. Video stores went out of business when DVD’s replaced VHS and then services like NetFlix became popular. The tobacco industry has been allowed to sell products that provide addiction, disease and often death. With science highlighting these issues, it can’t be a shock to these retailers that their business model might go the way of the video stores when public health becomes more important.

    • So , known fact , alcohol causes liver disease, sugars cause diabetes, driving under influence can kill, drugs kill, should they all vanish as well, your logic is baffling, and makes no sense, city council should ban all of the above, except for drugs, because they are sold in dark street corners.
      Do your homework before commenting.

  8. This legislation has been in making since before COVID. What would you say if there was no COVID? Do you think it would be OK to enforce this legislation if it not COVID? If so, COVID will not stay here forever. But this legislation will.

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