One of Ontario’s cannabis lottery winners has officially filed for a licence to open a retail pot shop called “Superette” on Wellington Street West, located west of downtown Ottawa — which, if approved, could be the national capital’s first legal marijuana store.
The provincial government is permitting 25 cannabis stores to open across Ontario on April 1, five of which can be located in the eastern region of the province, an area that includes Ottawa, Kingston, Belleville, Peterborough, the City of Kawartha Lakes and Barrie.
Pure Alpha Holdings, which won the right to apply for one of the five “East Region” licences, is behind the first proposed store in Ottawa, and is working with a small business team to set up shop at 1306 Wellington St. W. — between Clarendon and Warren avenues, opposite Grange Avenue.
Wellington Street West is a popular strip that boasts many cafes, restaurants, bars and other small businesses.
All private pot shops have to be approved, licensed and regulated by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). Once an application for a retail cannabis store has been submitted, the City of Ottawa and the public are given a 15-day window to file comments to the regulator.
The deadline to submit feedback on the proposed Wellington Street West store is Feb. 22. A brief statement provided by the city on Friday confirmed staff are aware of the application and are reviewing it.
The Superette team sent Global News a short statement on Friday but declined an interview, citing the ongoing application process with the AGCO.
“Since day one, Superette’s priority is to be part of the communities in which we operate, and not just another retailer,” the statement said. “It is important to us that the community residents, leadership, and fellow retailers and entrepreneurs understand what we can bring to the area and that we address any comments, questions, or concerns they may have.”
Ward councillor spoke to Superette team Friday, has no issues with proposed shop’s location
The city has said it will automatically oppose any applications for pot shops that would be located within 150 metres of another cannabis storefront or within 150 metres of schools, recreational facilities, community centres, libraries and public parks.
In a phone interview on Friday, Jeff Leiper — the city councillor for the area that includes the Wellington Street West strip — expressed no concerns about the Superette store’s proposed location, saying it appears to fit the city’s criteria. (There are four public schools, including three elementary schools, in the area, but all are located at least 650 metres away from the proposed shop’s address.)
For that reason, Leiper said he doesn’t expect the city will object to the store, nor does he expect any major outcry from his constituents.
“I expect we are certainly going to hear some opposition, but I do believe that most residents of the ward are going to be pretty chill with it,” the councillor said.
In an effort to ensure that harmony, Leiper said he connected with the applicants on Friday morning.
“I had the … discussion with the owners today about my expectation that it’ll present a friendly face to the community, that the store is going to be attractive, that there’s not going to be loitering around the store with people smoking,” he said. “But I don’t have any reason to believe that will be the case.”
If the Superette cannabis shop is approved and opened, Leiper said he anticipates that some “parking and traffic challenges” might arise from the store’s novelty and the demand for recreational pot in Ottawa. Those issues, though, would ease up as more store licences are awarded and more shops open in the city, he said.
The Ontario government said late last year it decided to limit the number of pot shops that could open on April 1 because it was concerned about reported cannabis supply shortages. The province held a lottery mid-January to select those that could apply for one of the first 25 licences.
The AGCO cannot issue any of the first 25 cannabis store licences to municipalities with populations smaller than 50,000 people.
The province has said it will gradually license additional cannabis stores later on.
The Ontario government allowed municipalities to decide for themselves whether to opt in or out of the province’s retail cannabis regime, which requires storefronts be located at least 150 metres from schools. A city council that opts into the retail pot-store model cannot reverse its decision; neither can a future council.
Ottawa city council approved hosting private pot stores in the national capital in mid-December.
Storefronts in Ontario will be required to bar entry to anyone under 19 years old and cannabis products sold cannot be visible from the street.