A city convenience store that was shut down five days ago for the alleged sale of spice that contributed to more than 40 overdoses around the city can reopen, effective immediately, after an injunction was granted today in Hillsborough Superior Court North.
Judge Diane Nicolosi ruled that when the city of Manchester shut down T&N Gas and Convenience, 90 Bridge St., on Aug. 13 it was done without due process, and therefore a violation of the store owner’s right to due process, under the New Hampshire constitution.
Nicolosi also said she could see no danger to the public by allowing the store to reopen.
The injunction was filed on behalf of the store owner by Joe Kelly Lavasseur, an attorney who is also an Alderman at Large for the city of Manchester.
Lavasseur said he is happy about the outcome of the case, because it was the right decision.
“As a small business owner myself, I was horrified when I heard that this had happened,” Levasseur said.
He acknowledged on Monday that some people inside City Hall – and outside – viewed his involvement in the legal side of this case a conflict of interest.
Lavasseur said he would not have taken on the case except that the store owner, Saif Nouri, is not only a constituent of his, but someone whom he helped to get the small convenience store business started.
“I helped them get into business. This is not something I’d normally do, but in this case, they are good people I know, good constituents, and I wanted to see them get back in business,” Levasseur said.
He said once the injunction matter was settled he would step back from the case, and any further involvement as an attorney.
The injunction only applies to T&N Gas. Two other stores, Han’s Market and Union Street Market, are scheduled to have a hearing Aug. 19 at City Hall regarding the revocation.
Levasseur said given the outcome Monday in court for T&N Market, and the fact that Gov. Hassan is involved at a state level, Levasseur said he expects the other two markets to be allowed to resume business right away.
“I don’t have a problem with police taking swift action as they did, but I have a problem with the manner in which Mayor Gatsas went about it. He didn’t contact any Aldermen. He made a huge mistake, in my opinion, by intimidating local businesses – scaring the hell out of them, really. What kind of message is he sending? This product, this potpourri, isn’t an illegal substance, and they didn’t find any of it at T&N Market,” Levasseur said.
On Aug. 13, Gatsas and Manchester Police Chief David Mara shut down three local convenience stores they said had been selling the product, under the brand name Smacked, which is packaged as potpourri but deliberately marketed to those looking for a cheap buzz by ingesting it.
By Aug. 14, Gov. Maggie Hassan declared a state of emergency in New Hampshire, after more overdoses were reported in Concord.
At the time Gatsas cited Chapter 110.2 of the city’s charter which details an ordinance that addresses business license revocation due to “public nuisance.”
Levasseur said he intends to introduce legislation to ban all chemical substances that fall into this category, modeled after similar legislation enacted in the town of Tilton.
You can also read the court’s decision here.
- City aims to ban the sale of spice 2014/08/15
- Gov. declares state of emergency over ‘spice’ public health threat 2014/08/14
- 3 stores shut down for selling ‘spice,’ causing public health emergency 2014/08/13
- Police link ‘Spice’ to at least 15 overdoses in 24 hours 2014/08/12
- ‘It looks like zombies have taken over the park’ 2014/08/14