CITY HALL — Owners of MoCa Modern Cannabis would like to expand their Logan Square digs soon, but now they’ll have to wait.
The medical dispensary at 2847 W. Fullerton Ave. sought approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals Friday to expand its Logan Square storefront by 1,300 square feet to accommodate the expected influx of customers once recreational weed sales begin.
But its application was deferred by the zoning board Friday because the dispensary did not provide economic disclosure statements from all owners in the company.
The matter will next be considered at a Jan. 17 meeting, Zoning Board Chairman Farzin Parang said. MoCa owners will be required to provide the disclosure statements for each person with an ownership stake in the company.
After the hearing, Sam Toia, a zoning board member and president of the Illinois Restaurant Association, said asking for a full list of owners isn’t new.
“This board has been requiring [ownership records for dispensaries] since 2015, when we started giving out medical dispensary permits. For liquor licenses, you only need down to 5 percent ownership, but we’ve been saying since ’15 on that we want to know all ownership [for dispensaries], from 0.1 [percent] all the way up,” he said.
“This is a new industry, so we want to make sure we’re doing our due diligence. That’s what the mayor wants us to do. We want to make sure we’re drilling down, that we know total ownership, diversity in hiring,” Toia said.
Brothers Dan and Doug Marks are the primary owners of the dispensary and the arcade bar Emporium Logan Square, along with another Emporium location in Wicker Park. Dan Marks told the Zoning Board of Appeals that the cannabis company had taken on investors since they went before the board for a medical license, but he didn’t have a full list.
The delay will not prevent MoCa Modern Cannabis from selling recreational weed on Jan. 1. Under state law, existing medical dispensaries can convert to dual-use pot shops. Modern Cannabis received their recreational weed license from the state on Nov. 19.
The dispensary and Emporium Logan Square are teaming up for a “Legalize It” celebration on New Year’s Day to celebrate recreational marijuana sales. The all-day affair touts “dank coffee” from Dark Matter Coffee, a food truck takeover and a 4:20 p.m. show from DJ Tess.
Marks said owners did not plan to begin renovation of the space before recreational sales begin on Jan. 1, even if the board approved expansion plans Friday.
If the expansion is approved, medical patients will be able to access the dispensary from both of the stores entrances, one on Fullerton and another at 2369 N. Milwaukee Ave. Recreational customers will only be able to use the entrance on Milwaukee Avenue, a few doors down from Emporium.
The owners also plan to use Emporium as an “overflow waiting room” for the dispensary on busy days.
Under state law, existing medical dispensaries also have the right to open a second recreational dispensary. In November, at the Zoning Board of Appeals’ lottery MoCa Modern Cannabis was selected third and chose to locate their second location in the lucrative Central District, scrapping previous plans to open a dispensary at the former Barry’s Drugs in Wicker Park.
The 11 existing medical dispensaries are all owned by white men. Chicago’s Aldermanic Black Caucus had been trying to halt recreational sales until July 1 when more minority-owned firms may be licensed, but that effort failed in a 29-19 vote at Wednesday’s chaotic City Council meeting.
During the Zoning Board of Appeals hearing Friday, Marks sought to answer questions about the company’s diversity in hiring before they were even asked.
“Our workforce is very diverse. Not just for PRs’ sake, it’s something we’re very dedicated to. Our community, our customer base is very diverse, Logan Square is obviously a very diverse neighborhood, and I think our employees are a reflection of our community,” he said.
Toia asked if the dispensary had a letters of support from Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) and neighborhood groups.
Marks said they had a letter from La Spata but he didn’t realize they needed a letter from community groups because they were only seeking to expand inside their current location. He said they did notify neighbors of their plans to expand, as required by the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Toia said the letters are a sign the applicant has done their “due diligence.”
They “are not required, but it’s something I’ve been asking about for a few years now. We love seeing letters from the alderman, and it’s also great to see letters from the chamber of commerce and the neighborhood groups. We like to see exactly how the community feels,” Toia said.
After the meeting, a visibly disappointed Dan Marks called their plan “just a minor rearrangement of space,” but declined further questions about the matter.
The Zoning Board of Appeals will play a large role in shaping the city’s burgeoning weed industry. All new recreational dispensaries in Chicago will have to seek a special-use permit at the board prior to opening as outlined by the city’s cannabis zoning rules.
Toia had some advice for dispensary owners seeking the board’s approval: “Make sure you’re dotting your ‘I’s and crossing your ‘T’s before you’re coming up before the Zoning Board of Appeals.”
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