FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – Fresno City Councilmembers Miguel Arias and Nelson Esparza, as well as Council Vice President Annalisa Perea, are aiming to close down at least 70% of Fresno’s smoke shops as part of a new ordinance, they announced together Tuesday.

At the announcement, each said the businesses are a growing problem in the city.

“In three years, these unregulated retail storefronts grew by 900% just in District 3 alone,” said Arias.

Arias says the ordinance would stop shops from exploiting a loophole that classifies many of the businesses as grocery stores.

“By setting up a cart of chips and sodas they can fulfill the description,” he said.

As of now, officials say there are hundreds of smoke shops operating within the city, most of which are exploiting the loophole.

The ordinance would require those that wish to remain open to apply for a ‘conditional use permit’.

Shops would also have to limit all outdoor advertisements and window glazing and would be required to have exterior lighting and surveillance equipment.

The remaining businesses’ hours of operation would have to be limited from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and loitering would not be allowed.

The ordinance calls for a maximum of 2 smoke shops per council district, a total of 14 in the City of Fresno.

“We’ve seen human trafficking, we’ve seen online gambling, we’ve seen drug paraphernalia and drug sales, a lot of calls for service. So, a bad use is far worse than an empty building, that could be used for a better use in the neighborhood,” said Arias.

Smoke shops within 1,000 feet of other smoke shops, or sensitive areas like schools or parks, would not be allowed.

The exact ordinance is not available yet, but council members say it will be brought to Fresno City Council in early November.