The license for the first recreational pot shop on Capitol Hill has been approved. After a year of waiting in limbo, the state Liquor and Cannabis Board has approved the I-502 retail license for Tok to open at 15th Ave E and E Republican, according to the agency’s list of recently approved licenses. The approved location, nestled between El Farol and Postal Plus on E Republican, was the former home of Angel’s Shoe Repair.
Tok’s opening did not appear to be imminent late Monday as the shop’s windows remained papered-over. Tok owner Sam Burke and his spokesperson Ben Livingston did not return CHS’s messages Monday afternoon.
With a license in hand, Tok’s opening will close a chapter in one of the most closely watched small business dramas that’s played out on Capitol Hill. Earlier this year, Burke was well on his way to opening a pot shop inside the now-shuttered Capitol Hill Veterinary Clinic when Uncle Ike’s owner and CHS advertiser Ian Eisenberg bought the property in a $1.5 million deal. Burke, an original I-502 lottery winner, had hoped Eisenberg would still extend him a lease, but Eisenberg later told CHS he would remodel the space in hopes of finding another I-502 permit holder to partner with.
With his heart — and business plan — set on opening a shop on Capitol Hill, Burke scrambled and eventually secured a deal with the landlord across the street to open in Ray Angel’s longtime cobbler shop.
While Burke waited for Angel to make his exit, Eisenberg opened the Capitol Hill Family Arcade in the former veterinary clinic. Eisenberg said it was a convenient placeholder while he waited for the next window to submit an I-502 applications. The business seemingly had another advantage: complicating Burke’s mission to open Tok.
According to state regulations, an I-502 retailer can’t open within 1,000-foot radius of a place where children typically gather, including parks, schools, and video arcades. The rule was written into I-502 with the assumption that it would placate federal law enforcement officials. Under federal sentencing guidelines, there are specific penalties for selling drugs within 1,000 feet of schools.
However, the buffer zone is likely to change after the State Legislature passed a bill in June that would allow for local municipalities to reduce the buffer to 100 feet for places like video arcades and parks. We have asked the WSLCB for clarification on how the buffer rule zone is being applied at 15th and Republican.
The buffer zones created an odd permitting landscape, essentially restricting I-502 locations near Capitol Hill to the area around 23rd and Union and a 15th and E Republican.
State regulators opened a new window for I-502 license applications last month, and unlike the first application round and lottery, there is no set cap on the number of licenses they can issue. Eisenberg submitted an application to open a second Uncle Ike’s where his arcade currently operates, but told CHS he’s not holding his breath for a permit.
The WSLCB will give preferential consideration to those pot pioneers in the dissolving medical marijuana industry. First priority applicants include law abiding medical owners or employees who were issued a license prior to January 2013 and applied for a retail license prior to July 2014. Second priority applicants are medical shop owners or employees who have been licensed since January 2013. All other applicants will be third priority.
Meanwhile, the Central District got its second pot shop in September as Ponder opened its doors at 24th and Union. Ponder’s opening and Uncle Ike’s ongoing strong sales all on a few blocks near 23rd and Union is a version of the “Little Amsterdam” prophecy some predicted as I-502 retail rules and zoning took shape.
Uncle Ike’s and Ponder are CHS advertisers.
UPDATE 11/23/2015: So, Ruckus? Nice crow! No reviews… yet.
— Aaron Brethorst (@aaronbrethorst) November 23, 2015