LINCOLN SQUARE — A recreational cannabis dispensary is trying to open near one of Lincoln Square’s busy commercial corridors.
The area’s alderman is still making a decision on approving zoning the business needs to open at the site, which was once a Core Power Yoga, 2301 W. Lawrence Ave. The company leaders behind the site have been meeting with neighbors to answer their questions, assuring residents there will be security guards and they’ll hire from the neighborhood.
Botavi Wellness submitted a zoning change application to Ald. Matt Martin (47th) on Jan. 1 to open at the site. The zoning change would need to be approved by Martin and the full City Council, as well as get final approval from state licensing officials before Botavi can sign a 10-year lease and move into the 6,585-square-foot store.
“This is going to be one of our flagship dispensaries in Chicago. This will be our biggest dispensary, by size, in the city of Chicago,” Zaveduk said.
When that approval could come is unclear, though. Martin said he is asking for neighborhood feedback before making a decision on the dispensary’s application.
And if the city approves the dispensary, it’s unclear when Botavi would get final state approval to open because Illinois officials are in the process of settling several lawsuits related to its lottery system for cannabis licensing, according to Botavi’s zoning application.
This would be Botavi’s first dispensary; its owners are partnering with Justice Cannabis to use the older company’s expertise: Justice is in eight states and has opened more than 10 dispensaries. Jonathan Loevy, a civil rights attorney and one of the principals for Botavi, helped launch Justice Cannabis in 2014.
Loevy lives near the proposed dispensary and often shops along the commercial corridor near Giddings Plaza, he said.
“There are a lot of cannabis companies that would love the privilege of serving Lincoln Square. It’s a great opportunity,” Loevy said. “… It would be really good for our community to put a dispensary here that would drive traffic to Lincoln Square and would support all those merchants.”
Botavi also likes the site because it has a meter-controlled, on-site parking lot, Zaveduk said. Customers “purchase and leave; they don’t loiter,” Loevy said. Customers typically spend just four minutes shopping at a dispensary since they place orders online before going there.
The business would have 18 full-time employees, four part-time employees and be open 8 a.m.-10 p.m.
If approved, Botavi would hold a job fair at the Lawrence location to hire staff from the Lincoln Square community, Zaveduk said.
Security cameras would be installed and guards would be hired.
Loevy and Zaveduk pitched their proposal to neighbors during a Feb. 24 community meeting held by Martin’s office.
Neighbors raised concerns about the proposed dispensary being a few blocks away from Montessori Gifted Prep, 4754 N. Leavitt St., and and St. Matthias Catholic School, 4910 N. Claremont Ave., and whether poole would be consuming cannabis products near the dispensary or during the neighborhood’s many street festivals.
“Our security guards are there to enforce the laws of no on-site consumption,” Zaveduk said. “… Our security guards are not there to police the area. They’re there to provide a safe and comfortable shopping experience for our customers’ safety, security for our employees and security for our product that we’re storing on this on site.”
On-site consumption of the dispensary’s products is prohibited by law and hasn’t been an issue at other sites, Zaveduk said. Dispensary staff tell customers they must consume their cannabis at home or in a private place where it’s legal, he said.
“Our customers, we’ve found in other dispensaries, tend to purchase it and bring it home,” Loevy said. “I think that if they chose to attend a street festival after having consumed marijuana that would be a personal choice. It’s legal in the state of Illinois. But it hasn’t happened in any kind of disturbing way for other dispensaries in Chicago.”
If approved, Botavi and Justice Cannabis would do business at the Lawrence address under the name BLOC, Zaveduk said.
Justice Cannabis has operated a cultivation site near Effingham, Illinois, since 2017 which would serve the Lincoln Square dispensary, Zaveduk said. There will eventually be 10 dispensaries under the BLOC brand that will be served by that cultivation site, he said.
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