Article by Lauren O’Neil, Blog TO
There are four times as many legal weed dispensaries (213) as there are dedicated liquor stores (50) in Toronto right now, according to the OCS and LCBO websites.
That’s 213 licensed cannabis retailers across 630 square kilometres of space, with dozens more in the application process awaiting authorization from the AGCO to launch.
How on earth are they all surviving? Are that many people buying that much product? Is this cannabis boom headed for a big bust?
People in neighbourhoods where new pot shops now crop up faster than “for lease” signs can be installed have been asking these questions for more than a year — ever since the provincial government scrapped its licence lottery and removed the cap on how many legal dispensaries could operate.
To walk down Queen Street West, Queen Street East, Ossington Avenue or any number of hip strips in the 6ix right now, it’s almost hard to believe that only 25 brick-and-mortar weed stores were initially allowed to open across Ontario (just five of them in Toronto) after the federal government legalized recreational marijuana.
Toronto’s first five weed stores were given the green light to launch in April of 2019, more than half-a-year post-legalization, and subsequent rounds of licence lotteries saw at least 42 more approved by the end of that year.
The AGCO lifted store number caps (amond other restrictions) for pot retailers in January of 2020. The ability to apply for new store authorizations was opened up to everyone on March 2, prompting a flood of interest and applications.
And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, throwing the retail landscape into freefall as lockdowns kept businesses closed for months at a time.
Weed dispensaries (many of which are still “coming soon”) were quick to scoop up spaces left behind by shuttered bars, restaurants and retail stores.
As lockdown restrictions lift and people begin to live their lives somewhat normally, the question remains: How many weed stores can one city — scratch that — one city block support before there aren’t enough customers to go around?
A surge in new commercial real estate listings for AGCO-authorized cannabis stores suggests that at least some pot shops aren’t making enough dough to sustain a profitable business.
“The location is designed to be capable of serving over 300 customers a day.”