Muse Cannabis seeking clarity about its proposed store in New West

It remains to be seen whether Muse Cannabis’s proposed store in uptown New West has gone up in a puff of smoke.

JAK’s Beer Wine and Spirits has been working toward its goal of opening Muse Cannabis at 532 Sixth St.

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“Basically, we got our approvals from the city and the province, which is normally the biggest hurdle in the process. Everything was going along swimmingly until we were working our way through all the various building permits and everything like that,” said Mike McKee, JAK’s director of real estate and finances. “It turned out when the landlord was having discussions with his lender they advised him that they are not comfortable with cannabis and that they would not renew his loan with him if he had a cannabis tenant, which surprised both the landlord and ourselves. I was shocked.”

While some cannabis businesses have encountered challenges getting bank accounts at financial institutions, McKee said this setback was unanticipated as Muse Cannabis would be a licensed establishment selling a legal product.

“Unfortunately our landlord is banking with an institution that won’t even support legal cannabis,” he told the Record Jan. 8. “I spoke with the landlord’s account manager. I spoke with the (institution’s) head of lending. I even reached out and had email discussions with the CEO of this institution. They all just said it’s a use that they don’t feel falls within their values.”

But it turns out, that may not be the case after all.

The Record contacted BlueShore Financial on Jan. 9 to inquire ifit would not renew a client’s loan if the building included a tenant selling cannabis products.

“I can confirm that this is not accurate,” said a statement provided to the Record. “BlueShore Financial does not have a policy prohibiting a commercial property landlord from renting to a cannabis business.”

McKee said he was “completely stunned” to hear that, as it contradicted what he’d been told by company officials six weeks ago.

“I felt we had shot the last bullet in our gun and it was done,” he said. “Ironically, it seems that it’s not, so we live to fight another day.”

Based on the new information, McKee said he’ll be seeking more information to see if the store can move forward as planned in New Westminster.

“From my perspective, it appears that the lender’s policy has changed and that because of this, the landlord’s only concern has now been alleviated. So we feel that we are in a position to proceed,” he told the Record Jan. 10. “I am dealing with the landlord. I am dealing with the bank. I am dealing with the landlord’s lawyer. We are just trying to get all the clarity we need so that we can move forward.”

As part of its initial intake of applications for cannabis retail stores, the City of New Westminster supported a plan that would see five stores open in different parts of the city. Muse Cannabis was the successful applicant among those that proposed locations in uptown.

What happens if Muse Cannabis is unable to open at the approved location at 532 Sixth St.?

“The city does site-specific zoning, which means that I can’t take my permission from that site and go down the street and do it,” McKee said. “We will have to go through the whole process again, and then we will have to see what the next steps are with the city. I am not aware of how they plan to move forward with other locations moving forward.”

Mike Watson, a senior planner with the city, said the City of New Westminster is continuing to work with the applicant towards opening their proposed businesses.  

“At this time, staff has advised the remaining applicants that they may keep their applications on file to be brought forward for further council consideration should one of the five applications moving forward withdraw or not be supported,” he said in an email to the Record. “Should an application not be able to proceed, staff would report to council and council would then determine which application should move forward.”

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