Windsor set to get its first legal pot shop

Ten months after recreational cannabis became legal in Canada, it's been announced that Windsor could get its first legal pot shop.

The Ontario government has announced the outcome of the second round of 42 lottery winners eligible for a cannabis retail store licence.

The proposed location in Windsor is 545 Ouellette Ave., just north of Wyandotte Street. If the shop opens as planned, it would be the only legal retail store in southwestern Ontario west of London.

The local winner, Kyriakos (Kirk) Anastasiadis, must now apply for a cannabis retail licence through the province. Then the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) will review his eligibility for licensing.

Anastasiadis — who owns three bars and restaurants in London, Ont. — said it was "overwhelming" when he learned that he his name had been drawn in the AGCO's lottery.

"I was in a meeting and I didn't get a chance to check the winners," he said. "Once I stepped out of this meeting, I must have had 45, 50 missed calls."

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He said he decided to apply for a Windsor licence because he has "lots of roots" in the city. His mother was born in Windsor, and his brother even helps organize the annual Windsor Ribfest.

"I was really hoping it would pan out, and it did, so it's great," he said. 

The store could open as early as October.

Community reactions positive 

While Anastasiadis is still a couple of months away from potentially opening a store, some downtown Windsor business owners and residents are optimistic about the city's cannabis future.

Warren Twigg, the general manager of Lazares & Co. at 493 Ouellette Ave., says he doesn't view a cannabis retail space any differently than a bar. 

"I have no problems with it, and it brings people to downtown," he said. "It's a block where there hasn't been a lot change … so to put something new that people want to go to, it's going to be good for downtown and it'll bring people to the downtown."

Supplied by Kyriakos Anastasiadis

Victoria Pedri, a bartender who works downtown, says she believes the retail store will be "very lucrative."

"I definitely think that as soon as they open, they will absolutely be making money," she said. "As far as a business plan goes, I think it's a solid one. There are a lot of people downtown who want to access weed and at this point aren't able to."

Jason Viau/CBC

Still, Sarah Cipkar, the community development coordinator with the Downtown Windsor Community Collaborative (DWCC) points out that many residents in the past have raised issue with "anything related to drugs and alcohol in the downtown."

"We have a history of some issues with bars, things like that," she said. 

Nonetheless, Cipkar says as long as future retailers are "good neighbours," residents will be comfortable with their presence.

Jason Viau/CBC

"This brings people to the downtown," she said. "People will notice it. We have ample parking for people and so there is an opportunity for people to come and maybe do a little bit more shopping than just this one retailer."

Cipkar says she expects police to be "very vigilant and also very proactive" when it comes to patrolling Windsor's downtown.

"I know that the police have really stepped up and have had some really good proactive presence in the neighbourhood through the bike unit and their city centre patrol unit," she said. 

Lottery results by the numbers

The AGCO says there were 4,864 "eligible expressions of interest" included in the lottery draw.

A total of 137 applications proposed setting up cannabis retail stores in Windsor. 

In addition to the lottery winner, three other applications proposed 545 Ouellette Ave. as their location, including Higher Limits Cannabis Company which closed its downtown Windsor cannabis lounge in December.

There were also 10 applications in Chatham and Sarnia and one application in each of Leamington, Kingsville and Amherstburg. There were no applications submitted for Essex. There were also no applications for LaSalle, Tecumseh and Lakeshore, three municipalities that had opted out.

In addition to the single lottery winner in Windsor, a total of 11 people or organizations are now eligible to apply for licences in the 'West' region. The AGCO drew lottery winners in Kitchener, London, Hamilton, Welland, Stoney Creek, Niagara Falls, Ancaster, St. Catharines and Guelph.

Sarnia on the wait list

The AGCO also drew names for a wait list, in the event that lottery winners are found to be ineligible for a licence. Though no Windsor locations are on the wait list, Patrick Small of Sarnia, Ont. could potentially scoop up a licence in the event that any of the 11 West region winners fail to earn a licence. 

There is a potential Windsor connection to one of  the winning entrants in Toronto. A proposed cannabis retail property at 104 Harbord St. is the same address as a branch of Cannabis and Fine Edibles (CAFE), an illegal dispensary chain whose owners grew up in Windsor.