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Near North Side, River North

From Jungle To Joints: Rainforest Cafe Could Become A Weed Dispensary

If approved, the pot shop would sell medical and recreational cannabis at the former restaurant at Clark and Ohio streets.

The former Rainforest Cafe.
Justin Laurence/Block Club Chicago
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RIVER NORTH – The former home of popular jungle-themed family restaurant Rainforest Cafe could be transformed into an expansive pot shop this summer.

The Rainforest Cafe — famous for its decorations, like its oversized rooftop tree frog — closed in August 2020 after 23 years at 605 N. Clark St. 

Progressive Treatment Solutions, which owns a suburban cultivation center and other dispensaries in the state under the Consume brand, wants to relocate its Norwood Park dispensary into the vacant 22,000-square-foot building.

The company would sell medical and recreational cannabis at the River North store. 

Company officials will share more about their plans at a community meeting 6 p.m. April 27. A location will be announced closer to the date.

Officials have already had preliminary talks with Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) and the River North Neighbors Association, President Michael Riordan said.

The former Rainforest Cafe, March 30, 2022.

Replacing the aging facade — which features a tree canopy, giant mushrooms and swinging monkeys — would be “welcomed by the neighborhood,” Riordan said. 

The company also committed to “tone down” the planned LED lighting, shared its security plans and said it would respond to any complaints from neighbors, Riordan said. 

“It’s much more tasteful and much more soothing than the garish stuff that’s out there now,” Riordan said. “Everything seemed to be reasonable, and so there’s no need to not move them to another level and see what the larger community has to say about it.”

The company inquired about the property with the city’s Zoning Administrator in December, the first step in the process to receive the required special use permit from the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals.

If Reilly and neighbors support it, the company’s application could receive a hearing before the zoning board as soon as May.

Sean Conlon, a real estate investor and television personality, bought the Clark Street building for $13.7 million in 2015 and continued to lease the space to the Rainforest Cafe until it closed in 2020, according to Crain’s.

Neither Conlon or representatives for PTS Corp immediately responded to requests for comment.

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