IN TH FIRST: ED council approves city’s 2nd cannabis dispensary

EAST DUBUQUE, Ill. — A second cannabis dispensary has been cleared for development in East Dubuque.

City Council members voted unanimously this week to approve a special use permit for Portland, Ore.-based UHCC Inc. to construct an adult-use cannabis dispensary at 69 and 79 Sinsinawa Ave.

“There was no hesitation,” Council Member Jeff Burgmeier said after the meeting. “Everybody is looking forward to it, especially with a brand-new building down on our Main Street. … (The developers) were very well prepared, and I think this is going to be great.”

The council’s vote came immediately after the city’s zoning board voted, 3-2, to recommend approval of the permit. Zoning Board Members Dave Lechnir, Paul Largent and Deb Redman voted in favor of recommending approval, while David Kale and Jean Robey voted against it. Chairperson Linda Waltz does not vote except in the event of a tie.

UHCC, which plans to do business as Bridge City Collective, received a license last summer to operate an adult-use cannabis dispensary in the northwest Illinois nonmetropolitan district, which includes East Dubuque.

James Straus, UHCC managing director for Illinois, said Tuesday that he was familiar with the East Dubuque area and felt the city would be “favorable for cannabis” as he and his team looked for locations to set up a dispensary.

“They had already an existing operator, and they were familiar with the impact,” he said.

That existing operator, The Dispensary East Dubuque, opened in May 2021 at 1709 Illinois 35 N. At The Dispensary’s request, the city enacted an ordinance requiring a minimum of 15,000 feet between licensed dispensaries, which precluded a second dispensary within city limits.

However, after city officials heard last fall from multiple entities interested in opening a dispensary, council members voted in December to amend the ordinance and reduce the minimum distance to 5,000 feet. This distance could allow up to three dispensaries in the city, depending on the location of each business.

Straus said UHCC officials plan to raze the buildings at 69 and 79 Sinsinawa Ave. and construct a new structure, representing an investment of about $2.5 million. The proposed dispensary would have 4,904 square feet of floor area, with 1,899 square feet of retail space, according to the special use permit application, and no cannabis could be consumed on site.

Local resident Dave Sendt owns both 69 and 79 Sinsinawa. The latter building currently houses Incognito Bar, whose owners lease the building.

Sendt said Tuesday that discussions with UHCC are ongoing and that he does not yet have information regarding the future of Incognito.

“We’re still working on things, but we haven’t come to an agreement with anybody as of yet,” he said. “There’s opportunities that are on the table. I still have to work through all of those things right now.”

Mike Meyer, owner of Incognito, declined to comment.

On Tuesday, Zoning Board Member Paul Largent said he was impressed with the UHCC business plan, particularly security plans that include a guard and require customers to produce identification to enter the building.

“Everything was first class, and they’re going to put up a $2.5 million, brand-new building, which we definitely need to help the downtown area,” he said.

Burgmeier previously voiced concerns about whether increased customer traffic from a dispensary on Sinsinawa could create a lack of parking. However, he said he was pleased to hear that the city will be striping additional parking spaces near the dispensary and that UHCC officials anticipate customers will typically spend fewer than 10 minutes in the facility at a time.

“By the nature of our transactions with our clients, it’s a very limited time that we engage,” Straus said. “They’re in and they’re out, and many are on the internet making their order in advance. I think (city officials) understood the parking was likely enough, and we put to rest a lot of fears.”

Straus said UHCC hopes to open the business by the last quarter of 2022 or the first quarter of 2023. The dispensary will create approximately 25 to 30 jobs and could attract 250 to 300 customers per week.

“It’s another good thing for the establishments down there to get lunch or dinner out of some people or maybe a cocktail, so hopefully we’re helping everyone on (Sinsinawa Ave.) out a bit that way,” Burgmeier said.

The city also will see financial benefits from its new tenant, as East Dubuque receives regular sales tax and an additional 3% excise tax from sales at any dispensaries in city limits. In one month last summer, the city collected $18,719 in tax revenue from sales at The Dispensary.

Straus said he and his colleagues plan to focus on not only providing a quality product but also educating customers and “removing the connotation” associated with cannabis. He feels the business will represent an economic boost for the city’s downtown area.

“We want to be a part of the rebirth of that area at the end of Sinsinawa, and we feel confident that we can begin to start that foundational change that takes place,” he said.