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Renton marijuana retailers still waiting for licenses, locations

With the first wave of business licenses released on Monday and several marijuana retail outlets opening on Tuesday, Renton retail license lottery winners were still preparing to open their stores, despite not being in the initial batch of license approvals.

Two of the three lottery winners have had to find new locations since city zoning laws for retail marijuana business have changed since they filed their applications with the Washington State Liquor Control Board, but both are searching for new locations in the city.

The third lottery winner is just waiting for her license and will be ready to open.

“We’re still waiting to hear from the Liquor Control Board,” Miles Alexander, owner of the Northwest Cannabis Emporium, said Tuesday.

Alexander’s business is located in all of the proper zones for both the state and the city, but the backlog at the state is keeping her from being ready to open.

“We’ve got all our ducks in a row,” she said. “Now it’s a matter of waiting for that phone call from the LCB.”

Alexander’s business will be located in the Highlands, in a plaza at the corner of Sunset and Union Avenue Northeast. Originally, the business was to be in a small building just up Union, but a spot in the plaza opened since her application and they are now intending to move in there.

For the other Renton businesses, the location is proving difficult.

“I am actively out looking,” said Myles Kahn of Seattle Tribal Partners.

Kahn’s business finished third in the lottery of nine applicants. However, due to a change in zoning, his location is no longer one zoned for retail marijuana businesses.

Earlier this year, the City Council adopted an ordinance placing marijuana retail businesses in the same zoning category as taverns. The decision limited the number of zones available to marijuana retailers from 13 to six.

The 1000-foot buffers around sensitive areas, approved by voters during the passage of I-502, also remain in place.

Kahn’s business was originally to be placed in a plaza the south end of the city on South 41st Street, but the zoning change eliminated that location. Kahn said the tavern zoning is making it difficult to find a location for his nascent business.

“They didn’t make it terribly easy,” he said, but added that the city’s planning department has been very helpful as he tries to navigate the new laws.

Kahn also said he is also getting  some “pushback” from landlords concerned about the nature of his shop and said some of the other applicants from Renton who are located within the proper zones appear to be holding on to their locations in the hopes that those who did receive licenses will be unable to find suitable locations and give up their spot in the order.

In addition, Kahn said he was worried a little about the supply in the state and in the possibility of running out of product and was therefore waiting a little before opening.

Eric Gaston, owner of the city’s top lottery winner, the Dormouse, also found his business in a location no longer zoned for retail marijuana and was also actively searching for a new location.

Alexander, meanwhile, said she has already talked to an architect and security firms and should be ready to provide “safe, legal access to something the voters of Washington voted for” within a few weeks of getting state approval.

“We are ready,” she said. “We physically can be ready to open within four to six weeks.”

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