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Insurance Refuses Coverage to Hogans Corner Pizza Shop Amid Melbourne’s Tobacco Wars

Smokin Joes in Hoppers Crossing

Arson Attack Leaves Local Pizza Store in Dire Straits Amid New Insurance Warnings

In the wake of a devastating arson attack at a $2 shop in Hogans Corner shopping centre on Hogans Road and Derrimut Road, Hoppers Crossing, Smokin Joes Pizza and Grill has found itself in a challenging position. The suspicious fire, which occurred on the 8th of May 2024, has left the beloved local eatery unable to reopen, with significant cleanup and repair efforts still pending.

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The recent fire comes after a previous attack on the  11th of August 2023 around 4:15 am, where fire services were swiftly dispatched to the Hogans Corner Shopping Centre in response to a reported firebombing incident. Police reports suggest it was a tobacconist shop that was the target.

The owners of Smokin Joes Pizza and Grill have expressed their distress over the situation. “Since the arson attack, our store has been closed for months and we have not been given access to begin cleanup and repairs. We are in a devastating state where insurance has refused to cover the arson attack and is pushing repair costs onto us,” a spokesperson for the store said.

This incident is part of a larger and troubling pattern known as Melbourne’s “tobacco wars,” where arson attacks are increasingly targeting businesses believed to be involved in the illicit tobacco trade. However, innocent businesses like Smokin Joes Pizza and Grill are also suffering as a result of these criminal activities. The restaurant, well-known and cherished by the Hoppers Crossing community, is now seeking support and prayers from the local community to help them get back on their feet. “We are trying our best to get back to ground level. We need your prayers, help, and support to serve you again,” they added.

Recent letters sent out by councils to shop owners across metropolitan and regional areas have highlighted the insurance risks associated with crime. These letters warn that landlords potentially involved in Victoria’s illicit tobacco trade face significant insurance risks. Victorian Police, in conjunction with local councils, have alerted shop owners that Taskforce Lunar investigators will notify insurance companies of their arson investigations if there is evidence suggesting illegal products may have been sold or distributed from the premises.

“Recent arson attacks have led to detectives from the Arson and Explosives Squad and the Lunar Taskforce locating illegal tobacco, including cigarettes and vapes, inside the premises subject to the arson attacks,” the letter states. The letter further advises landlords to disclose any knowledge of such conduct to their insurers, as failure to do so may adversely impact their insurance status should a claim be made.

The letters, stamped May 21, aim to inform landlords of the risks associated with businesses engaged in illicit activities and the potential impact on their insurance arrangements and nearby properties.

Victoria Police emphasized the importance of these warnings. “The purpose of the letter is to highlight to landlords the current risks around businesses operating who are engaged in illicit activity, and the risk they present,” police stated. “This includes the risk to current insurance arrangements as well as the potential for nearby businesses and properties to be adversely impacted by the fires and other criminal activity.”

As Smokin Joes Pizza and Grill continues to navigate this difficult period, the Hoppers Crossing community’s support remains crucial in helping the local business recover and reopen its doors. The broader implications of the tobacco wars underscore the unfairness faced by innocent businesses caught in the crossfire, emphasizing the need for a community-driven effort to support those affected.

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