I was in New York City for a couple days this past week. I'm sweating just thinking about it — it was HOT.

I was walking around the city with my girlfriend Lindsay (she's getting her masters degree at Columbia University next year) and had to buy some clothes for a wedding we're attending this weekend. While we were walking around trying to find something suitable, we alternated between being broiling hot and refreshingly cool as we passed stores that left their doors open. The air-conditioned air literally poured out of the storefronts, leaving the sidewalk in front of their doors noticeably cooler than just a few feet away.

Unfortunately it's illegal to keep your doors open in the heat. A new law passed in 2008 requires businesses larger than 4,000 square feet or that are part of a chain with five or more stores in the city to keep the doors shut when using AC. Last year city inspectors only gave out warnings, but this year they started to hand out actual fines. Offending stores will pay $200 for the first offense and $400 for a second infraction within an 18-month period.

The New York Times reported that this year the city has inspected 105 stores, issued 26 warnings, and fined nine stores that had been warned last year.

I think they need more inspectors. Of all the stores we passed in just a few blocks of shopping, we found about a quarter of them with open doors blasting out cool air. Some were national chains which, I assume, have more than five stores in the city; others easily were over the 4,000 square-foot mark pegged by the law.

It might make sense to bump up the fine as well —$200 doesn't seem like a lot of money when you consider that the business owners are probably paying just as much for the extra energy needed to cool the sidewalk in front of their stores. If a store can pull in an extra $500 in business from attracting customers to their cool temperatures, then a $200 fine isn't much of a deterrent.

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