Fire and Flower to open three years after approval

Published on April 18, 2022 by The Daily Courier

Photo: Contributed
A development permit for a cannabis store at 553 Bernard Ave. in downtown Kelowna is now being reviewed by city staff. The site was rezoned to allow for cannabis sales three years ago.

A cannabis retailer with more than 100 stores across Canada is preparing to open its third pot shop in BC in downtown Kelowna.

A Fire and Flower Cannabis outlet is planned for 553 Bernard Ave.

The premises were rezoned by city council to allow for cannabis sales three years ago but a pot shop has never opened there. Fire and Flower is now leasing the location.

“We are confident Fire and Flower will not only meet but exceed the community’s expectations for a retail cannabis store,” company vice-president Matthew Anderson writes in a development permit application now under review by municipal planners.

The company also operates cannabis stores under the names ‘Friendly Stranger’, ‘Happy Days’, and ‘Hot Box’.

There are 18 cannabis stores in Kelowna and the property at 553 Bernard Ave. was one of the first, in May 2019, to be rezoned by city council to allow for cannabis sales.

“It never opened but the ownership has changed hands since then,” Ryan Smith, the city’s top planner, said in an interview Monday.

When ownership of a cannabis store changes, the province must approve the new owner. That approval process is underway regarding the store proposed for the 553 Bernard Ave. location, Smith said.

Part of that review process involves the province seeing if there’s any opposition from the public to the proposed new operator of the cannabis store, Smith said. Whatever feedback the city receives concerning Fire and Flower’s application for its first Kelowna store will be sent on to the province for review, he said.

“For any previously-approved cannabis application that didn’t end up opening and changed hands, there needs to be a new public process to deal specifically with the new business owner,” Smith said.

By last  June, the lack of cannabis stores in downtown Kelowna was of some concern to city councillors.

At that point, two downtown properties, including the one at 553 Bernard Ave., had been rezoned to allow for cannabis sales but shops had not opened at either location.

“Who knew that none of them would actually be open, two years later,” said Coun. Gail Given. “It’s really quite astounding.”

The city’s original intention had been to not allow cannabis stores within 500 metres of one another, an approach that gave considerable potential market share to the two downtown pot shop locations that had been approved by the city.

Coun. Loyal Wooldridge lamented the “unseen horse trading” that he said was going on regarding pot shop approvals for presumably lucrative downtown locations.

And Coun. Mohini Singh suggested those who’d been approved wanted to “make some money and move on” rather than actually open a cannabis store.

City council has, on occasion, waived the requirement that cannabis stores be located at least 500 metres apart depending on the circumstances of the application. Downtown Kelowna now has three cannabis stores that are open, according to the provincial government.

— Ron Seymour