Are they high? Cannabis store in downtown Des Plaines gets initial deal

OFF THE RECORD column

Des Plaines elected officials on Monday evening expressed little conviction that the downtown area will soon live up to its potential as a home to more restaurants and entertainment-related businesses. That expression and vote came even with the opening of Halloween night at the restored Des Plaines Theater half a block away. Even after spending $ 6 million mostly from taxpayer dollars to buy, renovate, beautify and reopen the theater. Even after the creation and promotion of a $ 100,000 grant program for new downtown restaurateurs. And even after the arrival of Santa Claus three days earlier in the nearby metropolitan square.

The faith of six of the city’s eight aldermen and Mayor Andrtew Goczkowski on Monday night was directed towards the opening of a downtown marijuana store on Miner Street, where the former Leona’s restaurant operated until 2017. While people visiting the city’s central business district will no longer have the opportunity to bite into a burger there, they will be able to wrap their lips around cannabis products like gummy bears, brownies. and gaskets. The recreational pot will be on sale to people over the age of 21. They cannot ingest in public view. So what are they going to do with their purchases? Probably get home quickly or catch up with a friend and when it’s time to enjoy cannabis products, put one on or strike a match.

It seemed pretty obvious that the six approving aldermen – Mark Lysakowski (1st), Colt Moylan (2nd), Sean Oskerka (3rd), Artur Zadrozny (4th), Malcolm Chester (6th) and Shamoon Ebramini (8th) with the mayor – had made their decision before the start of the public debate on the subject. Ald. Chester, however, said he reserves the right to change his mind before a final vote takes place in two weeks. The others, however, have provided in recent months what appears to be circumstantial evidence that they are part of an emerging voting bloc in city council that supports each other on issues referred to them to ensure passage or the refusal. This is how I felt Monday night.

Ald. Moylan said very little, but it was obvious from the start that he was in favor of the proposal. Ald. Lysakowski spoke more Monday night than he has in the past five years, it seemed. One of his suggestions in trying to convince opponents was to take some or all of the estimated $ 180,000 in annual taxes the dispensaries would generate for the city and direct it to the police and firefighters’ pension funds. from Des Plaines. Sounds pretty cool, eh? Aldermen, however, can allocate city money to pretty much anything they want. Lysakowski’s idea was in effect. Ald. Oskerka, explaining his reasons for the cannabis store, cited the obvious number of empty shops downtown, adding that restaurant survival rates are questionable. And Mayor Goczkowski said the planned cannabis dispensary in the old restaurant would attract more people to the city center, which everyone wants. Yes, filling an empty outlet with a cannabis store will definitely attract people. A billiard room too.

It was revealed Monday evening that a second dispensary had been offered for vacant properties on Mannheim Road and Pratt Avenue, far from the central business district that city officials have targeted for decades as a family and business destination. An Outback Steakhouse, a First Watch Cafe and a Five Guys Burger Restaurant are also planned on this area. Operating a dispensary makes more sense than downtown, even though Orchard Place School is located a few blocks east of Mannheim and Pratt.

The initial approval on Monday night for a cannabis store to operate in one of Des Plaines’ most visible locations, where kids parade every Halloween for tricks or treats, and theater bosses listen to popular music , was a decision as short-sighted as ever. seen.

The final passage is expected in two weeks.

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