Heading to two of Calgary’s largest indoor shopping malls could soon mean picking up bud and bongs before hitting the food court.
City officials have conditionally approved the location of a cannabis store in Chinook Centre and another in Southcentre Mall, two of at least 83 applications so far given the green light.
Another 61 of the retail proposals have been rejected ahead of the Oct. 17 date for legal recreational marijuana.
Representatives with Chinook Centre’s owner, Cadillac Fairview, declined to comment on the approval, while officials with Oxford Properties Group, which oversees Southcentre, weren’t available for an interview.
But such outlets will become commonplace throughout urban areas, including indoor malls, said Mike Kehoe, a broker with Fairfield Commercial Real Estate.
“Cannabis retailing will become mainstream very quickly, and as it becomes more mainstream there’ll be a wide variety of retail mix,” he said.
“Landlords are in the business of leasing space and this is a direct extension of cannabis retailing.”
Much of the city’s criteria limiting cannabis store locations is based on proximity to children or youth.
While indoor malls are commonly seen as gathering places for youths, Kehoe noted many of the shops are also being approved in openly visible storefronts in strip malls that are also popular with young people.
City officials weren’t available to comment.
Mall landlords leery of accepting sellers of a still-stigmatized product could be swayed by lease rates often more than double the norm, said Blair Mastin, a realtor with Re/Max Complete Commercial.
“They pay premium rates . . . on space that’d typically be $22 a square foot, those retailers are offering $45 and that can go up to $50,” said Mastin, who counts several would-be cannabis retailers as clients.
“It’s the attitude the landlords take — ‘I have to deal with the kind of crowd coming around so I’m charging you for it,’ kind of like liquor stores,” said Mastin, noting liquor outlets inside malls in Calgary are a rarity.
Even so, Mastin said he’s surprised the major malls would take in pot merchants before they’ve proven themselves elsewhere.
“An awful lot of them are waiting for the cream to rise, to see what the response from the public will be,” he said.
Stringent lease agreements in some major shopping complexes might deter some marijuana merchants, said Mastin’s colleague, broker Darryl Terrio.
“If someone’s found smoking pot 20 stores away, the shopping centre can hire security guards to make sure there’s no smoking and bill that to the (cannabis) store,” said Terrio.
Large shopping malls will also likely favour bigger cannabis industry players, he said.
“They wouldn’t accept a mom-and-pop shop,” he said.
The applications approved so far by the city are still subject to a three-week appeals period and must also be green-lighted by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission.
City officials say they hope to have the first 187 store applications that were received in April processed by the end of Friday, with the remaining 74 completed at a later date.
on Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn
Full story is available here.