Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, smoke shops in Isla Vista were some of the few businesses still operating along Embarcadero del Norte and Pardall Road. However, the operational three whittled down to just one by this weekend, with Wild Side Smoke Shop now serving customers “curbside only.” As such, their business has seen a recent uptick; however, students can’t help but feel that what should be an active heart of I.V. has now turned desolate.
Outside of the obvious grocery stores and restaurants, it is clear the pressures of a dwindling clientele base are exerting their toll. Smoke shops in Santa Barbara are still able to operate so long as they are practicing the proper social safety guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC).
Both Precious Slut and the Vape Shop are now closed, leaving convenience stores as the only non-smoke shop option in I.V. Changes to the county’s tobacco laws that became official in mid-March prevented smoke shops and convenience stores from selling non-traditionally flavored vape products, like the Puff Bar. Alongside notices of the new curbside policy for Wild Side customers are updates on their Puff Bar stock and what flavor capsules, meant to modify the still available Puff Bars, are in stock.
California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a stay-at-home order weeks ago along with guidelines on what businesses qualify as essential or non-essential. The sections which allow smoke shops to stay open alongside dispensaries starts with the continued operation of healthcare/public health sectors, which includes licensed medical and recreational cannabis dispensaries. Under the “Other Community-based Operations” heading and “Essential Workforce” section further down, businesses like commercial retail stores that, “supply essential sectors, including convenience stores, etc.” are allowed to operate.
According to the Los Angeles Times, at least two smoke shops were charged by the city of L.A. at the start of the month. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office threatened to shut off the store’s utilities after they refused to close their doors during the public health emergency.
For those who may see smoke shops as non-essential, they would be right if residing in L.A.; the city elected to impose tougher sanctions on top of the statewide order. The “Safer at Home” order issued by Mayor Garcetti last month has been most recently extended until May 15.
Published: April 17, 2020
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News