Tuesday, July 7, 2009

One of the oldest cigar makers shuts down its plan

Florida will fell short of one of its iconic cigar plants in later this summer when Hav-A-Tampa closes its factory, which has been working since 1902 and fires almost 500 employees.
Hav-A-Tampa revenues were hit dramatically by constantly increasing tobacco taxes and strict indoor smoking policies that have obliged smokers to go outside for a puff.
Altadis Inc, the owner of Hav-A-Tampa made public their decision to close the plant on Thursday during a special press-conference.
The major part of employees was involved in manufacture of legendary Jewel cigars, Hav-A-Tampa's top-seller. According to Kevin Barlow, head of plant’s human resources department, many employees have been working there for 15 years or even more, with even one worker who has been employed for 50 years.
Altadis made desperate efforts to keep the factory going, but was unable to overcome dramatic sales decline caused by the economic downturn and landmark tax on cigars.
The manufacture would be transferred to another plant owned by Altadis and situated in Puerto Rico. The owner also decided to keep the Florida distribution center open.
After hearing the news of plant’s closure, Hav-A-Tampa workers were trying to figure out if they would be able to get new work in an state where the unemployment rate reached 10 percent last month.
Debra Barker, a Hav-A-Tampa worker admitted that she has been working at the plant for 15 years and there have been people who have been there even more. She said that she would get another job since she had a higher education, but it would be very difficult to get a decent job for other people who had been working at the plant after graduating from school.
Atladis spokesman said that a combination of several factors affected Hav-A-Tampa revenues, among which were the economic downfall, growth of unemployment rates and implementation of smoking bans in enclosed public places. The strict smoking bans have essentially hit revenues in central and northern states, where it's impossible to go outside in order to smoke a cigar in the winter.

Tribal members plead not guilty to contraband cigarette charges

Four people who operated a smoke shop on the Swinomish Indian Reservation that was raided for untaxed cigarettes two years ago pleaded not guilty to federal charges Monday in Seattle.

Tribal members Marvin Wilbur, 71, and his wife Joan Wilbur, 72, along with their daughters-in-law April Wilbur, 44, and Brenda Wilbur, 49, were indicted by a grand jury in U.S. District Court last month on one count of conspiracy to traffic in contraband cigarettes and five counts of trafficking in contraband cigarettes.

The four remain free pending a trial set for September. The charges carry prison terms up to five years.

The Wilbur family ran the Trading Post at March Point, near Anacortes, which was raided in May 2007. Agents seized nearly four million unstamped cigarettes and about $120,000 in cash and bank accounts. It all has been forfeited to the government.

Prosecutors allege the Trading Post took in at least $13 million in revenue from contraband cigarettes and should have paid about $11 million in tobacco taxes.

In 2003, Marvin and Joan Wilbur unsuccessfully sued to try to stop a cigarette-tax compact between the state and the tribe that requires the tribe to collect the same tobacco taxes from on-reservation smoke shops that the state would collect.

Prosecutors say the Wilburs didn't get a tribal license to sell cigarettes and didn't pay tribal tax.