Judge sides with Hartford convenience store, allowing 24-hour operation

HARTFORD – A city ordinance forcing gas stations and convenience stores to close overnight was unconstitutionally applied, a judge has ruled.

In June 2018, several gas stations and stores in Hartford were denied permits to stay open for 24 hours. In July, the owner of the Exxon station at the corner of Woodland and Homestead streets, which was denied a permit, filed a civil lawsuit against the city’s corporation counsel.

The lawsuit claimed the city ordinance was not fairly applied to this specific business, arguing the decision “lacked any rational basis and was entirely arbitrary.” The city’s licensing division relies on the police department’s “recommendation based on the number of calls to the police from that location in the past,” according to the lawsuit.

But, according to a court filing, the city conceded that there is no written standard for how many police calls are grounds for denial.

In the lawsuit, the store owner didn’t argue the city ordinance was unconstitutional, just its application in this specific case.

The store owner claimed the denial of an 24-hour permit hurt the business. Before July, the store’s sales were around $34,000 per week, but when forced to close during overnight hours, the store’s sales fell to $17,000 per week. Gas sales went from 80,000 gallons per month to 59,000 gallons per month.

The judge in the case agreed the store “will likely suffer irreparable harm if it is not allowed to operate its store on 24 hours basis.”

“Its business has steadily declined since its renewal permit was denied it has lost goodwill,” the judge wrote, “and the plaintiff may no longer be able to afford the rent for its location, which could result in the business closing.”

The judge granted a temporary injunction for the store to stay open for 24 hours.

While the ruling may only apply to the Exxon station on Woodland Street, it may be used as precedent for other stores in the city.

“We will of course comply with the temporary injunction granted at this particular location, and we remain willing to consider negotiated resolutions with conditions on a case by case basis,” Hartford Corporation Counsel Howard Rifkin said in a statement to FOX 61. “As we have always said, the granting of twenty-four hour permits is a question of balancing quality of life and public safety concerns with businesses’ desire to maximize revenue,” Rifkin said.