Illinois Dispensary Combines Weed, Bar and Bakery
It doesn’t take a million studies by scientists to tell people one thing they definitely already know about using cannabis: it makes you hungry. Which is why the decision by an Illinois dispensary to combine cannabis and baked goods is such an excellent idea.
Located in Wheeling, northwest of downtown Chicago, the OKAY Cannabis dispensary is the first in the state to combine cannabis and alcohol sales, according to the Chicago Tribune. It’s under the same roof as a new location for West Town Bakery, a popular Chicago diner that sells beer, wine, baked goods and other food.
The 12,000-square-foot space is on Milwaukee Avenue on the site of a former Twin Peaks. The owners want to create a place where cannabis consumers can relax and enjoy themselves. It’s yet another in a list of creative, cannabis-related venues that are opening across the country, including the Ganja Giggle Garden Los Angeles and The Lexi Hotel in Las Vegas.
Scott Weiner, co-founder of the Fifty/50 Restaurant Group that owns the bakery, said the idea of combining cannabis and baked goods in one place fits into his vision of the future of cannabis. “Make it an experience,” he told the Tribune. “We believe this is the next iteration of the cannabis industry.”
Combining Cannabis and Baked Goods
OKAY Cannabis majority owner Charles Mayfield approached the Fifty/50 Restaurant Group about creating a space for the bakery within the new dispensary. West Town Bakery already has four locations around Chicago.
Mayfield and the other owners wanted to create a different kind of dispensary where people could hang out, rather than pop in, make a purchase, and leave. Part of the attraction is the quality of food and beverages available at the bakery. The shop will serve Dark Matter coffee, pastries, sandwiches, cocktails and more.
Also, an outdoor patio will seat more than 100 people. People can hang out in the cafe or on the patio, rather than standing or sitting in a waiting area, as is the case at many dispensaries. The location also will have an event space that people can rent out for parties and special occasions.
Social Equity Helped Found the New Dispensary
Illinois has emerged as a leader in trying to use cannabis tax dollars for community reinvestment and to provide social equity programs that support minority owners in getting into the cannabis business. These programs helped OKAY Cannabis launch the new dispensary and create a partnership with the bakery.
The majority owner of OKAY Cannabis is Mayfield, who is Black and the interim chief operating officer for Chicago Public Schools. Former Chicago 47th Ward Ald. Ameya Pawar and others are minority owners. They qualified as among the first social equity dispensary owners to open in the state, and in the suburbs specifically.
In Illinois, a social equity applicant is defined generally as those living in areas with high rates of poverty or cannabis arrests, or those with low-level marijuana arrests. So far, six social equity dispensaries have opened in the state, according to the Tribune. They include three in downtown Chicago, plus Okay, Altius in Round Lake Beach and Ivy Hall in Crystal Lake.