, Salem, MA

February 12, 2014

Businesses caught in tobacco sting


---- — SALEM — The Board of Health last night revoked the tobacco permit of a restaurant that has multiple violations of city regulations over the past 18 months, and it issued suspensions to four other businesses.

Salem Gril Z Chicken, 105 Lafayette St., lost its permit after piling up four violations since 2012, including two on Jan. 25 — selling to a minor and selling a tobacco product, a small cigar, for less than the required price. It was also fined $300.

Lower pricing encourages underage sales, officials said.

The restaurant has sold tobacco products to minors three times since July 2012, according to the board.

“I am concerned there’s no effort to curb sales to minors,” said Health Agent Larry Ramdin. “It’s just a terrible history.”

Asim Mushtaq, the owner of Salem Gril Z Chicken, disputed the board’s findings and said he plans to file a court appeal.

The revocation was part of sweeping disciplinary action by the board following a January tobacco sting in which more than a dozen businesses with tobacco licenses were caught selling cigarettes or cigars to minors or committing other offenses, according to investigators.

Four establishments were hit last night with $200 fines and seven-day suspensions for second offenses of the city’s tobacco regulations: Walyo’s Variety, 20 Essex St.; Marc’s Market, 51 Harbor St.; NYFC Food Market, 21 Salem St.; and Global 200, a gas station at 200 Canal St.

The penalties will take effect Feb. 24.

During the suspensions, the businesses must remove all tobacco products and advertising signs.

The sting was carried out over two days in late January. The North Shore/Cape Ann Tobacco and Alcohol Policy Program, a regional agency, sent a 17-year-old girl into 47 Salem establishments. She was sold tobacco in 14 of them.

“It’s alarming,” said Joyce Redford, director of the regional Tobacco and Alcohol Policy Program.

Redford said Salem has had a poor compliance rate in recent years. She said she hoped tougher regulations now in place will reduce sales to minors.

The health board plans to hold a tobacco training for all permit holders, which will be mandatory for businesses with violations.

Tom Dalton can be reached at