North Branch council cautiously approves another tobacco license

It looks like the third time’s the charm for the tobacco store formerly known as Cloud X Vapes. After having its tobacco license revoked due to selling to minors, among other violations, then the council rejecting a tobacco license application due to the perspective owner’s relationship with the original owners, the North Branch council approved a tobacco license request from Jacob Willenbring, who is a former employee of Cloud X that is now attempting to purchase the business.

According to City Clerk Ragini Varma, because of the sketchy history of Cloud X, North Branch Police Chief Dan Meyer did a thorough background check on Willenbring and found no connection between him and the original owners other than him being an employee. Varma also indicated that in conversations with Chief Meyer, Willenbring was informed there would be more than the normal number of compliance checks performed on his business, and even a slight non-compliance “would shut them down.”

Willenbring, who was in attendance at the Aug. 10 council meeting, told the council he welcomed the increased scrutiny.

“I do understand I am inheriting quite a load with that shop,” Willenbring said. “I’ve never had a problem with doing it (asking for an ID). I myself have never failed a compliance check. I had a great talk with the chief, and I made it clear that literally, if it was once or twice a week compliance check, go for it. I’m going to do everything in my power to ensure every one of those compliance checks passes.”

Despite those assurances, the council was still leery, but for another reason. According to Varma, Willenbring indicated on his license application there would be no employees other than himself. She said if he were to bring in employees, it is required he present workers compensation insurance to the city. Council Member Patrick Meacham stated if that is what is on his application and tomorrow the city discovers an employee working there, that would be falsifying his license application, which would result in an automatic revocation of the license.

Council Member Amanda Darwin asked Willenbring how he thought he could run the business entirely by himself, given the indicated hours of operation being 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.?

Willenbring indicated he did intend to hire some employees sometime in the near future, however none of them would be former Cloud X employees.

“For the first week or so, it will be only me,” Willenbring said, indicating the store’s shrinking customer base and need to replenish product wasn’t conducive to hiring employees immediately. “But after hopefully recouping some of my money, I would bring in employees.” He added he would supply to the city any paperwork they need once he hired employees.

The council approved the application under the condition Willenbring reworks the portion where he indicates he will have no employees, and provides the city with the proper workers compensation paper, by a 3-1 vote, with Mayor Jim Swenson voting nay and Council Member Kelly Neider being absent.

Council approves leave of absence from eda

Economic Development Authority (EDA) member Chuck Sinn has requested a six-month leave of absence in order to attend to matters involving his businesses and personal issues. 

The city council expressed their appreciation of Sinn’s work on the EDA and stated they would hate to lose him based on the current rules of being removed following three straight absences from meetings. Therefore, with the hope he will be able to return after the six months, the council approved the request. They also approved posting a temporary opening on the EDA for anyone interested in serving. Ultimately, the city bylaws state the mayor appoints EDA members, however Swenson asked to post for applications due to him not having someone in mind. The call for applications will remain open until the seat is filled.

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