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Detroit 2020 Exclusive: City Cracks Down On Illegal Businesses

December 05 2012 | 3 comments

An estimated 1,500 businesses are operating illegally across Detroit, according to estimates of city officials.  It may be something as simple as a failure to register the business, or having the proper permits. In other cases, there are violations of zoning requirements. Too many times, compliance notices and tickets are ignored. Now, the city is cracking down.

Detroit Police assisted building department inspectors and officials in taking the enforcement action.

Detroit 2020 was invited along on “Operation: Compliance.”

Our first stop: Rainbow Tires on the east side. Selling used tires is their only business–which is not allowed. Old tires are the biggest contributor to blight across the city, according to officials.

Supervising building inspector Glenn Davis informed employees — their work day was over. “We’re going to close the business, that’s what this is. It’s a closure,” Davis told employees at Rainbow Tires. The notice went up, and then the building was secured with a heavy lock.

Stop 2, on the other side of the city–a resale shop–with appliances right out front. Legal use of the building allows for the sale of new items but not used and undocumented goods.

The used appliances were wheeled back inside the building and Davis issued this warning: “No one can enter. It’ll be trespassing and you’ll be subject to arrest if you do, okay? I just want to make it clear,” Davis told employees at the resale shop.

Operating without proper permits and licenses is something a city desperate for revenue cannot afford. “We’ve done the numbers and we’ve actually seen that there’s about $1.5 million being lost annually because of city businesses not registering and not going through the proper process,” Davis told Detroit 2020.

Inspections also ensure the workplace is safe for employees and customers.

A west side building zoned for a machine shop currently houses a major auto repair business — an illegal use of the property. Davis also informed the owner of another violation–the junk vehicles and rubbish that litter the grounds. “They opt to ignore our notices, our tickets and so our next step is closure.” Davis said.

The owner of the business wasn’t really interested in talking with us.

“We’re just sending a signal that we want compliance, that’s what this is–Operation: Compliance. And it’s just to get businesses legal, go through the proper process,” Davis said.

No one is looking to chase away businesses. But the city can’t afford to look the other way if people aren’t operating legally. And with today’s action, they’re putting everyone on notice.


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  1. Otto Au December 6, 2012

    Wonderful, another 20 people unemployed and on welfare

    Should/nt the COPS be doing something useful, like law-enforcement, and catching crooks, pedos. and every sort of criminal that loiters around detoilet?


  2. Dave December 15, 2012

    Sounds like a protection racket to me. Pay up or we will shut ya down!

    What the heck is wrong with having an auto shop where a machine shop was??

    Or selling used stuff in a spot zoned for new? Come on now!


  3. Tom S January 2, 2013

    FINALLY !!!! A city in the USA that gets it. If you are dumb enough to run a business without proper city business license, permits, or follow code, then you deserve any closure or fines coming your way.

    This is something I will definately tell my city about in hopes they will crack down.


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