Fargo shop owner fighting back against city’s shutdown demand

FARGO, N.D. (KVRR) – A legal non-profit helps a Fargo business owner try to stay open after the city says it’s violating zoning laws.

“John’s just trying to run his business and his customers love him. He has five star reviews. He’s 69-years-old and he’s been doing this for 42 years. The city should just let him run his business,” Institute For Justice Senior Attorney Erica Smith Ewing said.

Owner of John’s Repair John Bultman fights against the city’s demands that he shut down next month or face fines of $1,000 a day.

The Institute For Justice began working with Bultman pro bono after seeing KVRR’s story that ran last month. He was told he needs to close John’s Repair near 12th Avenue North and University Drive because it violates the city’s zoning laws. When they changed, Bultman’s shop was grandfathered in in 1984 and continued to operate.

“The city seems to be taking the position that because John recently sold the property and is now a tenant at that property that he lost his grandfathering rights, but that’s not how grandfathering rights work. Not generally and not even under the city’s own ordinances,” Smith Ewing said.

The Institute For Justice calls the city’s actions “illegal and unconstitutional.”

In a letter to assistant city attorney Alissa Farol, the non-profit cited Fargo city code saying changes of ownership are permitted provided no changes in the nature of the agreement are made.

The Institute For Justice says it recently sued a Texas city for shutting down an auto repair shop and won.

“We hope that after the city reads our letter that it will clear up any misunderstandings and that the city will allow John to continue running his business, but if they don’t, then we’re leaving our options open,” Smith Ewing said.

KVRR reached out to Farol for comment and haven’t heard back.

Categories: Business, Local News, North Dakota News