Three different businesses want to open a pot shop on E Olive Way between Melrose and Denny. City rules would permit two locations to open, but the third could be left out.
Northwest Cannabis applied for a shop in a building next to The Crescent on October 20th. That entity is backed by marijuana advocate John Davis, and somehow involves Ian Eisenberg, owner of Uncle Ike’s.
The Reef filed its application November 9th, and wants to open a shop in the Amante Pizza building.
Finally, The Bakeree filed an application November 14th, looking to open in the building the houses John John’s Game Room, though not necessarily in the John John’s space.
In another wrinkle, all three buildings changed hands in recent months. The Reef’s proposed home sold for $1.4 million in June. In September, Eisenberg paid more than $2 million for the former law offices next to the Crescent. The biggest deal of them all also went down in September. Real estate investment firm Teutsch Partners snapped up the building home to John John’s, Pie Bar, and the Speckled and Drake bar for a whopping $4.3 million.
The flurry of applications comes in the wake of a change to city regulations surrounding pot stores made in January 2016. Those changes reduced the minimum distance the stores must maintain from places like parks and libraries from 1,000 to 500 feet, though the stores must still be at least 1,000 feet from schools and playgrounds.
It also established that two stores can open near each other, but a third must be at least 1,000 feet away. The city makes its decision about which store is No. 3 based on the order in which they receive their information from the state.
“Under current rules, two cannabis shops may be within 1,000 feet of each other, or even right next to each other. But if a third one comes along, it must be 1,000 feet away from the other two. This is determined based on the facts as they exist on the date we receive a ‘Notice of Marijuana Application’ from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. In the event of a conflict, the one for which we first receive this notification from the state will prevail,” wrote Bryan Stevens of Seattle’s Department of Construction and Inspections in an email.
Ryan Campbell, part of the management group at The Bakeree, acknowledges things might not look good for his concern. He said they hope to argue that the rules might not be a good fit for that part of Capitol Hill, owing to the large number of apartments in the vicinity.
“We feel the density can support three shops,” Campbell said.
He noted that with the parks and schools scattered across the neighborhood, this small pocket of E Olive Way is the only area, outside of the pair of existing shops on 15th Ave E, where a pot shop could operate on Capitol Hill.
That may well be so. But when the new, looser buffers were being put in place, some areas of Broadway and E Madison appeared to also be ripe for future marijuana retailing. Meanwhile, retail cannabis in Central Seattle, at least, has clustered. In December of 2015, Ruckus, Capitol Hill’s first pot shop, opened on E Republican at 15th Ave E. Capitol Hill’s Uncle Ike’s opened across the street in October 2016. Previously, Uncle Ike’s opened at 23rd and Union in fall of 2014. Ponder opened a few blocks away in fall of 2015.
Campbell said The Bakeree is talking with the city about what they might be able to do to open their store, but doesn’t have an idea about when anything might happen.
Campbell said he wasn’t sure why all three groups decided to apply within a few weeks of each other, nearly two years after the regulations allowed it. Another owner in the industry who asked not to be identified said the timeframe appears to be a coincidence formed by the new buffer rules, a hot real estate market, and the time it takes to put together a plan that meets requirements.
Meanwhile, Eisenberg declined to comment for the story. Representatives for The Reef did not immediately return a call for comment.
All three applications are in the early stages, so it will likely be some time before any E Olive Way pot hits the market.