The Hells Angels have received approval to open a retail shop in Winnipeg's Exchange District.

The city's board of adjustment approved the motorcycle gang's application last night, despite strong opposition from police, local businesses and the Manitoba government.

Winnipeg vice inspector Stan Tataryn says he's disappointed with the decision, but he understands the city's dilemma.

At issue was the Hell's Angels application to expand an existing Albert Street tattoo parlor into a mail-order shop for motorcycle parts. Opponents fear the presence of the outlaw motorcycle gang could bring more crime to the downtown.

Zoning administrator Barry Thorgrimson said a Supreme Court ruling prevents municipalities from making zoning decisions based on the character of the applicants.

"Land use and zoning principles would support retailing at this level in this location," he explains. "We are silent to the character of the operator."

Tataryn warned that the character of this operator could invite tragedies similar to what has happened in Quebec, where biker wars have raged for years, killing more than 160 people. "Once the gang wars start, shops like these are a target for arsons and explosions," he says.

Manitoba Justice officials say the department is looking into new legislation to stop outlaw gangs from running legitimate businesses.

In the meantime, the newly expanded store – called River City Choppers – is expected to be up and running in a few days.