Evanston’s Land Use Commission voted 5-0 Wednesday night to recommend City Council approval of plans for a marijuana dispensary with an attached bakery and coffee shop at Howard Street and Chicago Avenue.
Ameya Pawar, one of the owners of the proposed OKAY Cannabis and West Town Bakery operation, told the commission the business hopes to change the model for the cannabis industry — from a purely transactional “wait in line” approach, to one in which people could drop by just for coffee, or coffee and cannabis, too.
“We want to normalize the narrative around it,” he added.
However, he said the bakery would not be selling cannabis-infused products — a different state license would be required for that — and, while anyone could enter the bakery, to get to the cannabis sales area customers would have to be over 21-years-of-age and be screened at the entryway.
Pawar said the companies involved have “a 93% black and brown ownership structure.”
Charles Mayfield, interim chief operating officer of the Chicago Public Schools, is the majority owner at 51%, while Pawar, a former Chicago alderman who’s on the board of the Heartland Alliance, has a 28.32% ownership interest.
Pawar said the dispensary would typically have three on-site security personnel and an extensive system of cameras accessible to police agencies to monitor the operation.
He said the business would employ 15 to 20 people, with most of them people who have been involved with the criminal justice system.
Former Evanston Ald. Ann Rainey, who had pushed for years to get the new Evanston Gateway building at 100 Chicago Ave. built, said this was “the second-best use” the site could have.
She said she’d hoped to see a miniature version of the Valli Produce supermarket open at the site, but couldn’t convince Valli’s owners to pursue the idea.
Regarding the cannabis use, Rainey said, “We’re all grown up in Evanston now” so a second dispensary in the city shouldn’t be an issue.
Rainey also suggested that while a city ordinance limits dispensary hours to 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., the bakery portion of the operation should be allowed to open as early at 7 a.m. to catch morning commuter traffic.
And the commissioners agreed to include that revision in their recommendation to City Council.
Related story: Howard pot shop, bakery plan goes to LUC.
“allowed to open as early as 7 am?”
Why have any restriction at all for a bakery’s hours of operation? Some folks get on their trains earlier than that.
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