18 Apr 2007 Smelling Delicious a Civil Offense in New York City
Coffee company spends over $30,000 fighting New York City’s air pollution citation for smell of roasted coffee.
In New York City, Smelling Delicious Can Get You Fined
New York City’s Gillies Coffee Co., founded in 1840 and one of the oldest coffee merchants in the United States, has built its reputation on its own delicious, fragrant brand of coffee. But not everyone likes the aroma of freshly-brewed coffee: New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has cited Gillies for “polluting” the air – in an industrial area – with the smell of roasting coffee.
Incredibly, the DEP ruled that the “fugitive odors” coming from the Brooklyn business – namely, the smell of roasting coffee – is an illegal air pollutant that violates the New York City Air Pollution Control Code. Hy Chabbott, the co-owner of Gillies, has agreed to pay the $400 fine but says it will be impossible for the company to meet the DEP’s demand that they completely eliminate the coffee smell in the future.
“Research has shown that coffee smells like coffee. There is nothing that can reasonably be done to separate the natural smell of already roasted coffee from a coffee business,” explained Donald Schoenholt, president of Gillies. “Under the current interpretation [of the NYC Air Pollution Control Code],” Schoenholt asserted, “shoe stores, barber shops, doctor’s offices and flower shops are all in violation of the law.”
Gillies was convicted of the violation on April 2, 2003 by the city’s Environmental Control Board, the municipal administrative court run by the DEP. The matter cost the company over $30,000 on legal bills. Schoenholt is constantly aware that his company could be fined again, because the law has not been taken off the books.
“Once it has been established that you are a polluter either through conviction or because you admit guilt by paying a fine,” Schoenholt told the Tea & Coffee Trade Journal, “you are on the slippery slope. It’s only a matter of time before you’re forced to move your business from New York City.”
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, New York City’s DEP has also fined pickle companies, bagel bakeries, and doughnut shops for aroma violations.
Schoenholt says: “It’s really hard to live like this as a business owner. I don’t know if I’m going to be in business in one year, in five years. I can’t really put a dollar amount on the harm that’s been done.”
Sources: Reuters (April 22, 2003), Donald Schoenholt, Tea & Coffee Trade Journal, Philadelphia Inquirer (April 26, 2003)
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