THUNDER BAY - The city could see two cannabis stores opening after a south side shop receives its operating license from the province.
Kia Ora on Victoria Avenue received its retail operator license from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario in January after the province opened up applications to the general public following a lottery system that was in place last year.
“The next step is we have to wait until March 2 to apply for store authorization,” said Matthew Harrison, general manager of Kia Ora. “We’ve had a store since July 2019, ready to go, ready to sell cannabis, but we have been waiting for them to get rid of the lottery system and just open it up to the public.”
Harrison said the goal is to have the store operating and selling cannabis by the beginning or middle of April, but there are still several steps that need to be taken, including a store inspection and hiring between 25 and 30 people.
“The timeline hopefully, we have to have a 15-day notice period, we are trying to be really aggressive and move as fast as we can go,” he said. “All we have to do now is basically hire people and get them trained up. We have a job fair on Wednesday. We’ve had a couple for the last few weeks looking for applicants. That is the next step.”
This is the city’s second cannabis store to receive a retail operator license, with Tokyo Smoke receiving approval from the AGCO to open a location in the Intercity area on Memorial Avenue.
The location did receive some pushback from the city and businesses in the area, due to its proximity to YES Employment, but the AGCO issued the company a retail store authorization. There has been no indication yet when Tokyo Smoke plans to open in Thunder Bay.
According to Harrison, the location of Kia Ora should not create any concerns, but he will have to wait until the end of the 15-day notice period.
“Everyone in the neighbourhood seems to be okay for it,” he said. “A lot of people who live nearby and say they love the idea. We haven’t heard any pushback from any businesses. We haven’t put our notice out yet, so once we do somebody might come through and put a valid complaint through. We don’t know.”
But Harrison believes the city having a second cannabis store will be good not only for customers, but the businesses themselves, because the province limits how much cannabis can be sold at a location per week.
“So what will happen is there will be cannabis and there will be none, so I think it’s better for the industry to have more than one store,” he said. “A city like Thunder Bay could probably have half a dozen stores and be perfectly fine. That would at least stabilize the fact that people can go and buy it.”