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Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town

Wicker Park Dispensary Owned By Black Women Gets City Council Approval, But Still Has Hurdles To Clear

The City Council signed off on a zoning change Wednesday, but the dispensary must secure a special use permit and wait out a court case about state cannabis licenses before opening.

The proposed site for a recreational cannabis dispensary at 1212 N. Ashland Ave. in Wicker Park
Quinn Myers/Block Club Chicago
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WICKER PARK — A cannabis dispensary owned by two sisters and the former owners of Chicago’s first pot shop got the Wicker Park zoning change it wanted Wednesday, bringing it one step closer to opening.

The City Council’s Committee on Zoning approved a zoning change at 1212 N. Ashland Ave., former home to a bank and adjacent to the Division Blue Line Station. The full City Council followed suit Wednesday.

Fifty-one percent of the business is owned by sisters Loretta and Priscilla Foster, Black women who have been awarded a social equity cannabis dispensary license by the state. They are partnering with the former owners of Chicago-based cannabis company Dispensary 33. 

The former owners of Dispensary 33 — Paul Lee, Gene Moreno and brothers Bryan and Zach Zises — sold their two dispensaries in Andersonville and the West Loop to Florida-based cannabis company Ayr Wellness last year.

The team is using cash from the sale to partner with social equity applicants and open pot shops in Chicago, including the Wicker Park shop, Bryan Zises said at the time.

Groups are awarded social equity status on their dispensary applications if their majority ownership hailed from areas disproportionately impacted by the drug war or if they, or a family member, had been arrested for cannabis-related offenses.

Though the full City Council approved the zoning change, the Wicker Park dispensary still faces regulatory hurdles before it can open, including receiving a special use permit from Chicago’s Zoning Board of Appeals.

The company’s conditional state dispensary license also has been delayed by a lawsuit challenging the state’s process, which has prevented the companies that won licenses last summer from moving forward with their plans. 

Before the Dispensary 33 sale, Zises said at a community meeting in September he would be willing to provide a personal guarantee on the Wicker Park property’s rent to secure the “beautiful” location.

Having the former Dispensary 33 owners on board will help the Foster sisters with technical support, like management and security, hiring help and other assistance, but the final business decisions will be made by the sisters, Bryan Zises said.

Construction of the space is being overseen by architect Jaime Magaliff, of Steep Architecture Studio, who has worked with the company’s owners on other locations. 

“One thing we really focus on is customer flow, and how to design that in a way that creates a linear, station-based process that quickly moves customers through the space without any bottlenecking or backtracking,” Magaliff said at the September meeting.

The dispensary would not have parking, and instead would rely on foot traffic and the nearby Blue Line station and bus stops. 

Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) signed off on the zoning change. 

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