As Illinois prepares to fully legalize weed in a matter of weeks, a pair of cannabis firms have submitted applications to open the city’s first standalone recreational pot shops in River North downtown.
Cresco Labs and Greenhouse Group are both looking to lock in prime locations outside an exclusion zone for dispensaries that stretches from Division Street to Van Buren Street and from Lake Michigan to State Street in River North and to the Chicago River in the Loop.
Cresco hit the jackpot in November’s bingo-like lottery that determined which areas existing cannabis firms can open the city’s first recreational pot shops, snatching up one of the seven available spots in the Central District after being drawn first.
The River North-based company — which currently operates five medical dispensaries and three cultivation centers in Illinois — intends to set up shop inside a four-story brick building at 436 N. Clark St. that’s located steps from a Starbucks, according to the Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals.
The space was last occupied by The Baton Show Lounge, an iconic drag bar that moved earlier this year after a half-century in River North. Cresco plans to lease the building’s first-floor and basement, which would give the company around 8,000 square feet of retail space.
Greenhouse, which also opted for the Central District with the seventh pick in the lottery, hopes to move into a retail space at 612 N. Wells St. that previously housed a Carson’s restaurant, according to the zoning board. The Deerfield-based firm currently has four medical dispensaries in Illinois.
A spokesman for Cresco declined to comment on its application or plans, while representatives for Greenhouse didn’t immediately respond to a request seeking comment. Both companies filed their applications on Dec. 6 and will now have to attend a community meeting before going before the zoning board.
Should those stores gain approval, no other shops will be able to open within 1,500 feet, according to the city’s zoning rules.
Applications related to the other 29 selections made at the pot lottery by existing dispensary operators haven’t been submitted. That includes two other picks by both Greenhouse and Cresco, which also drew a second spot in the prized Central District.
As part of the state legalization law, each of the state’s 55 medical dispensaries can be converted into dual-use stores. In addition, each existing dispensary can open another store that sells only recreational weed.
No standalone recreational dispensaries are expected to be open for business when those sales kick off on Jan. 1. Meanwhile, only seven of the city’s 11 medical pot clinics have received approval from state regulators to also start selling recreational weed.
Lakeview clinic gets zoning OK
MedMar Lakeview, another Cresco dispensary located at 3812 N. Clark St., is among the shops that have been awarded a dual-use license.
On Tuesday, the City Council’s Zoning Committee voted 7-5 to allow Cresco to move the dispensary to 3524 N. Clark St., just steps from Wrigley Field. The objections came from black and Latino aldermen concerned about the lack of minority ownership in the city’s pot industry.
Despite Tuesday’s vote, Cresco isn’t out of the weeds yet.
The company must now get final approval from the zoning board and then deal with its major hurdle: a directive put forth earlier this summer by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation that prevents existing dispensaries from adding recreational marijuana sales if they move to a new location.
“There’s a lot of different steps in the process and things we need to do and we need to approach them individually,” Cresco spokesman Jason Erkes said of the lingering issue with the state.
Contributing: Fran Spielman