It was probably less than 10 minutes from the doors opening, the “open” sign turning on, and the first customer coming in at Quesnel’s first non-medical retail cannabis store.
Located at 308 McLean St., where the Billy Barker Beer and Wine Store used to be, Cariboo Cannabis Sales opened on Wednesday, Oct. 16.
Walking into the store — through frosted glass to products can’t be seen from the outside — one finds a bright and clean space, with wooden counters and friendly staff standing behind modern-looking point-of-sale systems. Behind them are shelves of neatly packaged boxes and containers of cannabis products, displayed behind tall glass doors.
Owner Brad Kotzer, who also owns the Billy Barker Hotel and Casino, was the first person to apply for a non-medical retail cannabis store licence in the city, back in November 2018.
“It was sort of a challenge,” said Kotzer. “The government said any Canadian can open one up, there were no restrictions, so I said, ‘Oh, why not? We’ll see what happens.’
“But also, I sold the liquor store licence so I had an empty building to put it in, so it was more convenient for me. I also had a lot of security knowledge, so I knew that would help, and I already have a team in place, with the casino and hotel, who have helped me get started.”
He said the licensing process was harder than getting a liquor licence, but easier than a casino licence.
They have to buy all their products from the government warehouse out of Richmond, and the list of products they can purchase and then sell will vary over time.
“Right now, it’s smoking products and oils,” he said. “Sometime in 2020, food and beverage products will be added to the mix.”
The store is open seven days a week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
No minors are allowed, and there is a limit to the amount of cannabis that can be sold in one transaction.
Kotzer isn’t sure what to expect in terms of demand.
“We were one of three liquor stores in town and one of four stores in town for a short while, so based on those sales and [the fact] we’re the only cannabis store, I’m thinking we should be double or triple that,” he said.
“It has to be more because instead of having one employee per shift, I am going to have three employees per shift.”
Mostly smokers will be coming in for now, he added, because most of the products are for smoking, but things will change as more items become available.
“What’s coming is the unknown, the food and beverage, because the non-smokers can get more involved.”
Cariboo Cannabis is one of five stores approved in Quesnel. The others are for privately-owned stores at Chew Road and Rita Road in South Quesnel, St. Laurent Avenue downtown, and a government store in the West Park Mall.
Last month, council voted to limit the number of applications to five, pending a public hearing set for Tuesday, Oct. 22 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.