By ANDREW BORYGA
Published: July 8, 2010
Nine stores in Manhattan and the Bronx have been hit with $200 fines for leaving their doors open on hot days in the hope that the escaping cool air would lure sweaty customers. They are the first to be fined as part of a law enacted in 2008.
Last year, only warnings were given out. So far this year, the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs has inspected 105 stores. Seventy were in compliance, 26 were issued warnings and 9 that had been warned last year were fined, said Kay Sarlin, a department spokeswoman.
Fines start at $200, and go to $400 for any further infractions in the following 18 months. The legislation states that any business larger than 4,000 square feet or part of a chain with five or more stores in the city must keep its doors closed when using air-conditioning.
Ms. Sarlin said four of the stores were in the Bronx: Jeans Plus, 62 East 170th Street; Bronx Kidstown, 4100 East 170th Street; Jimmy Jazz, 101 East 170th Street; and V.I.M., 540 Bergen Avenue.
The other five were in Manhattan: Filene’s Basement and DSW, both on 14th Street facing Union Square; Forever 21, 40 East 14th Street; Armani Exchange, 129 Fifth Avenue; and Brooklyn Industries, 161 Eighth Avenue.
Ms. Sarlin said inspectors respond to complaints and keep an eye out for offenders throughout the summer. Last year, the department reported an 81 percent compliance rate.
During the recent heat wave, however, plenty of stores seemed to be in violation, as a reporter made his own inspection.
A digital thermometer read a refreshing 79 degrees 10 feet away from the Zara store at 17th Street and Fifth Avenue, despite it being a muggy 97 degrees two blocks away. A street jewelry vendor named Jamaal stood near the doors, enjoying the breeze. “Whenever I need a break, I stand near the door for some fresh air,” he said. “It’s always nice and cool.”
Jamaal was disappointed five minutes later when, after a reporter’s brief conversation with Zara’s manager, who was unaware of the law, the doors were shut.
The Filene’s Basement and DSW stores had their doors open — and both received fines.
Malik Boyd, 28, stood in the cool 78 degrees near the doors while waiting for friends. “I appreciate the arctic breeze, especially on days like these,” he said.
Mr. Boyd said he worked in retailing and understood the law and the argument for energy conservation, but ultimately did not blame the shop owners. “It’s business,” he said. “Sometimes you got to do what you got to do.”