April 3, 2020
A vape shop owner in Liverpool has been pinned to the floor and arrested by police for not following government guidance to close ‘non-essential stores’.
According to the Liverpool Echo, Ian Grave, 45, refused to close Dog House Vaping Co after police told his employee to close the business immediately.
Under government rules, vape shops do not count as essential retailers unlike hardware stores, pharmacies and even bike shops. Yet some vape stores have stayed open arguing that because their products stop people smoking they should be counted as healthcare retailers.
Grave told the paper: “I thought we were doing everything right, I only had one member of staff in and we only let one customer in at a time and then wiped down every time.
“I think we’re providing a vital service selling nicotine products. Off licences are still allowed to stay open, so why not us? You can also go to DIY stores, are nails essential?
“But they turned up and said we had to shut. I asked under what law did I have to close and they didn’t know.”
The extraordinary scenes occurred when Mr Grave argued his point and he accused the police of being too aggressive – pushing him to the ground and arresting him.
“It was totally over the top. They twisted my arm up my back, I was in agony.
“When I got to the station they didn’t know what to charge me with. On the board where they write things like ‘mugging’ or ‘burglary’, for me, they wrote something like ‘shopkeeper’.
“I was in a cell for a couple of hours before they let me leave. To be fair the officers in the station were great, it was just the ones who came to the shop.”
There are potentially “unlimited” fines for retailers deemed to breach the lockdown under sweeping powers given to police and councils last week to stop the virus spreading.
The vaping industry body – the UKVIA – is currently lobbying to make vape shops part of the list of retailers able to stay open during the shutdown, as is the case in France and Italy.
A Merseyside police spokesperson said: “We can confirm a 45-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of operating a non-essential business following inquiries in Thatto Heath on Thursday March 26.
“He has been released under investigation while our enquiries continue.”