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Roll-Your-Own Cigarette Stores Owner Fighting Feds To Stay Open

Sam Bontempo, partnership owner of the closed Tobacco Road, roll-your-own cigarette shops in the Tampa Bay area, is set to fight a federal law that led to higher taxes on discounted smokes. The Brandon shop was one of the more popular sites.

 

A local businessman is vowing to fight a federal law that has led to the closure of his Tampa Bay area roll-your-own cigarette shops, including the Tobacco Road location on Brandon Boulevard.

“As of this moment we are basically out of business,” said Sam Bontempo, of Largo, a partner in Good Times Pinellas. The company operates 13 roll-your-own stores in Central Florida, including in Brandon, at 948 West Brandon Blvd., one of the company’s most popular sites, Bontempo said.

  • Related Updated Content: , thanks to a federal district court injunction that puts the brakes on enforcement, at least temporarily.

Roll-your-own stores offered smokers the chance to pick their own tobacco and use large machines to have the tobacco rolled into cigarettes. While it could take 10 minutes to sit and roll 200 cigarettes, the stores were popular with smokers for one reason: price.

While 10 packs (200 cigarettes) of Marlboro Lights can cost north of $60, 200 cigarettes at a roll-your-own store typically cost around $20-25.

“It was a little inconvenient but it was worth it for the price,” said Mary Ann Flower, who bought her smokes at the store for two years.

Under the new law, roll-your-own cigarettes will now be taxed at the same rate as brands like Newport and Marlboro, all but eliminating the roll-your-own market niche.

“It’s our customer who will now take it on the chin,” Bontempo said. “These are people who are unemployed or on a fixed income that cannot afford to pay $60 for a cartoon of cigarettes.”

Bontempo was left fuming after a federal transportation bill signed into law earlier this month contained a small amendment targeting roll-your-own tobacco businesses. Under the new law roll-your-own stores are now termed “tobacco manufacturers.”

Good Times has been in business two years and employs 55 people at 13 stores in New Port Richey, Holiday, Lakeland, Plant City, Largo, Pinellas Park, St. Petersburg, Zephyrhills and Tampa. Florida is home to some 80 roll-your-own stores, second only to Pennsylvania, according to Bontempo.

Bontempo and his attorneys now plan to file for injunction against the new law.

“At least so we can wind down out inventory and work out something with our leases,” said Bontempo who estimates he has $150,000 in unused tobacco.

The stores are still selling tobacco paraphernalia but their cigarette machines — their largest source of income — are closed.

“We would like to have at least some time to sell off the inventory and reach agreements with landlords. We have some leases that are for 1 and 2 years.”

The company also plans to join a national campaign against the new law which Bontempo estimate will impact 800 roll-your-own stores across the country.

Laura July 27, 2012 at 09:36 PM
Ha ha ha joke's on Jerry - Tabacco Road is back open again!! And I'm "assuming" since you're belittling my ONE vice that you can walk on water and have no vices? Call me the next time you heal the children or perform a walk on water show as I'd like to be in attendance since I've never met God before. As for job training - I have training, including a degree - do you? Nothing worse than a non smoker worrying about us smokers! Take your holier then thou views and peddle them to someone who gives a hairy rat's arse!
Contact: Brandon@Patch.com July 27, 2012 at 10:08 PM
Story about today's reopening is coming soon . . .
Dee July 29, 2012 at 11:27 PM
Laura Love Your Comment I own a Tobacco Shop. If it comes down to it you can always roll your own @ Home. Buy a machine and pay as little as 12.00 per carton. visit my facebook The Village Tobacco Shop.
LORI August 13, 2012 at 11:59 PM
Jerry i was a manager for one of the Tobacco Road stores and im NOT a smoker.. I am a honest hard working woman who does not like to rely on ANYONE to help raise my kids but as this "bill" was snuck in under the new "TRANSPORTATION BILL: i am now unemployed!! It really doesn't matter if it was 100 or 10,000 people out of work!! THIS BILL HAS FORCED MORE UNEMPLOYMENT,MORE WELFARE, AND IS UNFAIR FOR THOSE WHO CHOOSE TO SMOKE AS A "FREEDOM" AS AMERICANS SHOULD HAVE!!
Rich Lewis August 27, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Are you a Joke, y job went to Mexico in 1998, I took a truck driving cource and passed with a Class A CDL just to find that you need 1 year on the road experience to be hired by a company. I have been turned down by so many jobs for over experienced. Give me a break. Those taxes are not to help with health insurance, it is there to linethe government workers pockets. Show me where all of those taxes that have been paid on cigarettes for all of those years went...You Can't!!!

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