The City of Chicago said it cracked-down on a major gas and snack retailer after receiving numerous customer complaints during the past six years.
Business Affairs and Consumer Protection researched and conducted investigations at several CITGO-branded retail locations. According to a city press release, BACP found approximately 114 CITGO-branded retailers were in serious violation of the Municipal Code. Among the retailers are 16 locations with “egregious” violations, including drug paraphernalia, unstamped cigarettes, tobacco sale to minors, outdated medication, outdated milk and food, no public bathroom, deceptive practices and overcharging for gas.
“Businesses in the City of Chicago are expected to make a positive contribution to the community, and selling drug paraphernalia and tobacco to minors won’t be tolerated,” said Maria Guerra Lapacek, Commissioner of the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. “If a business can not comply with the municipal code, then it will not be doing business in the City of Chicago.”
According to the city, the CITGO-branded location at 11600 South Michigan Avenue had the most violations, including selling cigarettes without tax stamps and selling outdated merchandise.
The manager could not be reached for comment.
“The fact that we found so many of these locations with outdated food was very troubling,” said Barbara Gressel of the BACP.
The city cited the 10007 South Michigan Avenue location for offering expired bologna for sale earlier this year The manager told NBC 5 Investigates the store has made improvements but said the city is being too harsh with its investigation.
And city records show a CITGO-branded retailer at 1001 N. Cicero, which was not included on the city’s “egregious violations” list, was previously cited for outdated food, outdated medication and a sales tax overcharge. The manager said the owner was unavailable for comment, but said employees check all the food every single day.
The city said CITGO and its marketers have agreed to take several steps to rectify the problems, including a Dealer Education Program to educate dealers of their obligations under municipal law.
“We wanted to change the practice so that these locations spread out across Chicago we're bringing value to the neighborhoods,” Gressel said. “We don't want to empty stations. We don't want to empty stores. We want good stores that are profitable.”
The city press release said CITGO and its marketers agreed to pay a Settlement Payment of $45,000 to BACP to defray the costs and expenses incurred by BACP in connection with the investigation.
A CITGO corporate spokesperson could not be reached for comment. However, the city said there have been fewer violations recently. It credits the Dealer Education Program. And a distributor which runs several CITGO locations said its dealers are cooperating with the city.