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Downtown Business Owner Plans to Defy LA Shutdown Order

The owner of two retail stores in downtown Los Angeles says she's been unfairly shut down because her tobacco stores also sell food.

NBC Universal, Inc.

One business owner in downtown Los Angeles said Wednesday she plans to reopen two retail locations even after she was charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly violating the City's "Safer at Home" order that directed the closure of 'non-essential' businesses.

Natali Mishali, who operates the DTLA Smoke Shops, said her stores stocked and sold snacks, drinks, and food that is similar to the inventories of convenience stores, which have been allowed to operate.

"What we're going to do now, is we're going to remain open, because we're totally within our rights to remain open," Mishali told NBC LA.

She said she hired an attorney after police ordered her to close and she was notified the City Attorney's Office was pursuing a misdemeanor charge.

"We did our due diligence, and made sure, we did our research while we were closed for three weeks with my attorney, and now we feel comfortable that we're totally within our rights," she said.

LA City Attorney Mike Feuer's office announced this week it had filed charges against 21 additional businesses for alleged violations of the Safer at Home directive, after filing cases against 28 businesses in recent weeks. Of those initial 28 nearly half were smoke shops.

"Tobacco stores are not an essential business," said City Attorney's Office spokesman Rob Wilcox. "For those stores that also sell additional items, our office will evaluate the evidence on a case by case basis, taking into account all of the applicable permits and licenses from the city, county and state."

Mishali said she received conflicting information about whether she was being charged under the city statute or an LA County ordinance that banned tobacco stores from operating regardless of the additional inventory it carries.

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