Brad Kotzer addresses city council at the public hearing regarding the cannabis bylaw on Tuesday, Nov. 20. Heather Norman photo

Quesnel inching toward first privately-owned cannabis store

The only applicant has been approved to move on to the province, before returning to council

Quesnel is inching toward its first cannabis retail store.

City council approved its only cannabis retail store application to enter into the provincial process Nov. 27. The approval is the first step of the process. Only applications the city thinks are viable can take this step. The province will then determine whether or not to approve the application.

If approved, the application would come back to the city once more, before going through the process of getting a business licence and approval from the city.

“The province will be doing all of the vetting,” explains Mayor Bob Simpson. “They’ll be doing all the criminal record checks and background history checks. And they will also look at the proposed layout of the store, the security, what they’re going to do in terms of staff training, what they’re going to do to ensure that it’s a legal enterprise – so that they’re actually checking ID and all that. That’s actually within the provincial process.”

The application moving through to the province is from Brad Kotzer, owner of the Billy Barker Casino Hotel.

Kotzer wants to open a store where the Billy Barker Beer and Wine store used to be, on McLean Street. He spoke to council at a public hearing last week, asking them to open the city to the option of privately-owned retail stores.

He also spoke about his experience in the service industry, his financial ability to operate the business, and the new jobs he expected the store would create if it were approved.

One other member of the public also spoke in favour of privately-owned retail cannabis stores at the public hearing.

READ MORE: Cannabis bylaw defeated, new councillors in favour of private store option

At Tuesday’s council meeting, council also directed staff to prepare a zoning amendment, which would allow them to pre-zone certain areas for cannabis retail stores – which would still allow council to approve the applications on a case-by-case basis, and make it easier for them to adjust requirements as needed.

More than one application will be accepted per-zone, something else which was adjusted during the Tuesday’s discussion. Originally, staff recommended only accepting one application per zone.

Councillors pointed out that some finessing is still needed to the requirement that cannabis retail stores be at least 100 metres from schools, parks, playgrounds and playfields, with one councillor asking if it meant 100 metres from the front doors, or line of sight.

While one cannabis retail store application has taken a step forward, city staff said they expect a second application to come in shortly.

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