The former Willie’s Bakery will take on a new name and a new clientele.
Trees Island Grown dispensaries will be opening a restaurant at the 537 Johnson St. location with the ambition of one day offering a vaping and edibles consumption lounge once the proper legislation comes through.
Trees is an Island-wide cannabis dispensary company with seven stores across Greater Victoria and Nanaimo. Currently, none of them are provincially or municipally licensed, but continue to operate during the application process.
However, that doesn’t stop future plans, which include a new eatery called Trees Restaurant.
“We are opening a restaurant in the Willie’s location now simply as a regular restaurant, and to position ourselves for the time when cannabis lounges or cafes can be licensed for cannabis consumption. This is just a matter of time, and there are many details that will need to be worked out, so we need to get this public conversation started ,” said Trees general manager Alex Robb. “Our hope in leasing this location is that at first it might be able to participate in a pilot program for cannabis consumption sites in Victoria.”
Willie’s was B.C.’s longest-running bakery, but after over 130 years in business it shut down in September 2018.
The layout of the former restaurant and cafe would be perfect for a cannabis-friendly lounge, Robb said, since the separated patio option could easily convert into a non-enclosed, ventilated cannabis consumption space.
Currently, the BC Cannabis Control and Licensing Act states that people cannot smoke or vape in a place which is “fully or substantially closed” within a workplace, or a place “in which a person performs services in return for compensation.”
To make sure servers aren’t affected by inhaled cannabis, the patio would not be partially open, seven metres away from the actual entrance to the facility, and separated from the restaurant by double doors. Servers would also only offer counter service at this side of the restaurant.
|A floor plan for the proposed Trees Restaurant shows the separated section where people will be able to consume cannabis when the correct legislation comes forward (File contributed/ Trees Dispensary)|
Currently, no legislation exists for either cannabis lounges or edible cannabis products, but Robb said having the site prepared simply offers them opportunities.
“Going forward we anticipate that this is going to be a major business category; it just makes sense that the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch will want to expand by also selling cannabis to restaurants and lounges the same way they do for restaurants and bars,” Robb said
“It won’t happen tomorrow, these things take a lot of time… But as I’ve suggested to the neighbours, in 10 years it’s inevitable.”
Still, Trees Restaurant is looking to soft launch its restaurant for the second week of May.
While the business’ liquor licence application is processed, the restaurant will offer brunch favourites like eggs Benedict, avocado toast, fried risotto dishes, as well as a full dinner menu, all designed by the chefs and owners behind Victoria’s Mo:Lé Restaurant.
Robb said that by mid-June the restaurant will do its hard launch, though a liquor licence isn’t likely to come through until mid summer.
Following city approval for the pilot project, Robb foresees the ability host to a cannabis-friendly lounge and to serve cannabis edibles by 2020.
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