Victoria’s only cannabis lounge moved into the space of the former Leaf Compassion Dispensary at 950 Yates St.
Terp City Canna Lounge was located at 1412 Douglas St. for years, operating illegally after it was denied a business license twice since 2017. The founder of Terp City, Kyle Cheyne, also owned Leaf Compassion Dispensary, which was also operating illegally after applications for business licences were denied.
Between the two businesses the city issued approximately $50,000 in fines, which have since been partially paid after legal intervention.
Leaf Compassion Dispensary has since been dissolved and renamed Platinum Cannabis Retail. The new chain is currently in the process of procuring six cannabis dispensary business licences across the Island, outside of Victoria.
With the brand change, Cheyne thought the space on Yates Street held huge potential for something different.
“We held on to that location on Yates Street for over three years for a dispensary, and applied twice with the last time a couple of months ago,” Cheyne said. “It got rejected again… so what I’ve done is some diligence and homework and realized Yates Street is way more suitable as a lounge.”
Leaf Compassion had held a smaller lounge in the back of the building for years, but during Cheyne’s pursuit of legalization he closed it down.
Now, all cannabis products have been removed, allowing all of the 3,500 sq.-ft. spot to be used for indoor cannabis consumption, as well as outdoor consumption on the back patio under the shelter of a 400 sq-ft. tent with a filtration system.
Cheyne said that the reason his application for a lounge at the Yates Street location was denied was because no proper legislation exists for lounges, despite some councillors seeing a need for them.
“The biggest motivation is that Coun. Ben Isitt and [Coun. Jeremy] Loveday have been trying to push through council that there’s a need for cannabis lounges,” Cheyne said. “They agree that there should be a patio and space downtown where people can consume.”
Isitt first broached the need for a cannabis consumption site in August 2018, and again in September.
“People who are fortunate enough to have private land own their homes and have outdoor spaces [around] their homes can smoke, but for people who don’t have that luxury there’s nowhere to lawfully consume this stuff, so there’s a disconnect,” Isitt said at a committee of the whole meeting on Sept. 6. “Thousands can’t lawfully consume it in their homes, so how are they supposed to do it?”
Cheyne said that in recent meetings with the city, it was quietly decided not to put forward more fines against Terp City. Cheyne cited that he hasn’t received a fine in six months, and that the city gave him a neutral-toned letter explaining the circumstances.
“The letter points out valid points as to why we are operating in a legal grey area supplying a safe consumption site,” Cheyne wrote in an email. “No one exactly said the words ‘we won’t be fined anymore’ but it’s clear if I do continue to get fined I can challenge each one and get them dropped, this is about medical patients and access to a safe consumption space.”
City staff said circumstances are not black and white with Terp City.
“To be clear, under current City bylaws and other regulations, on site consumption of cannabis is illegal and cannabis lounges are not permitted,” wrote Sheldon Johnson, manager of engagement at the City of Victoria.
“Since the regulation of cannabis retailers is a provincial responsibility we will be investigating and liaising with the province regarding future enforcement. At this time, we cannot confirm whether or not there will be more fines.”
Since it began operating as a lounge at the beginning of March, the Yates Street Terp City has hosted DJ’s and events. Cheyne said so far, neighbors have not complained of noise or odor.
The space at the former Terp City location will be absorbed by the next door restaurant, Shipwreck Bistro, also owned by Cheyne. Absorbing the space allows the soon-to-open business an extra 100 seats.
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