MENOMINEE—The Menominee City Council’s decision to encourage marijuana companies to apply to take over existing commercial sites means four long-time businesses might be relocating or closing to make way for marijuana stores.
It’s also added to the uncertainty over whether the four companies that won city approval for retail marijuana licenses in September will actually open stores in Menominee within the next six months.
La Cabana Restaurant in Menominee might be forced to find a new location if Attitude Wellness/Lume takes over the spot for a medical marijuana store, as tentatively approved by the Menominee City Council.
But as of last week, the restaurant owner hadn’t been told yet he’s got to move. “We might have to go,” said Martin Espinosa, owner of La Cabana restaurant in Menominee, which opened in 2010. “We don’t have a lease right now.” Espinosa said the building has been for sale for two or three years, so he is paying rent month by month.
The city council, which didn’t approve Attitude Wellness/Lume’s adult recreational-use retail application, is requiring the company be approved for a special use permit to act on its medical-use license, and this could prolong the process.
Espinosa said he would move La Cabana to another location in Menominee if he could keep the liquor license. “If I got an opportunity with a good building, why not?” he said.
Across the street at A&B Auto, The Fire Station Cannabis Co. plans to build a brand new building and renovate the existing structure on the property at 3101 10th St., said Stosh Wasik, co-chief executive of The Fire Station. “We are meeting the city’s requirements, and we plan on doing anything and everything the city asks us to do,” he said. “We will be purchasing the property. It won’t be a lease,” he said. A&B Auto declined to comment.
At Stang Sales and Service, 3213 10th St., owner Sue Polito said Thursday she sold the property to 1st Properties/Rize for a retail marijuana store. Instead of moving the shop, Polito said she’s closing Stang because the company owes money to a union pension fund. While Polito intended to work for two or three more years, the sale to Rize will allow her to retire, she said. “I wanted to be done,” she said. “The timing was perfect.” The principals of Rize couldn’t be reached for comment.
At nearby Anderson Auto, Don Anderson and his son, Nick, who together own the adjoining lots at 3109 and 3113 10th Street, said they’re in limbo. “Everything’s up in the air,” said Don, who owns 50% of the real estate.
Nick Anderson said he was approached earlier this year by several marijuana companies interested in the location, but as of Thursday, he said he hasn’t heard from them about the real estate. The city council approved grow permits for Ottawa Innovations at a vacant lot west of Anderson Auto, and it approved a medical-use retail license for Agri-Med at the Anderson property, but neither marijuana company received the adult-use retail licenses they wanted.
“There’s a lot of unanswered questions and issues especially for a business like mine where you can’t make any advances or moves” until the licensing gets resolved, said Nick Anderson, who owns the auto shop business. If Agri-Med buys the real estate he and his father own, Nick said he plans to relocate the shop within Menominee.
Agri-Med submitted two applications, one for adult-use retail and the other for medical-use retail, and the applications scored the same number of points—47, but it received only a medical-use license.
“We’re excited to move forward and to get one of the four (retail) licenses,” said Greg Maki, who founded Agri-Med in 2017 and was among the first to apply for a Michigan cannabis license.
Maki said he is hoping the Judicial & Legislative/Personnel & Legislative Committee will revisit how the marijuana selection committee made its recommendations for retail licenses. “I think there’s a lot of other people who are unhappy.”
Asked what he thought about the approval process, council member William Plemel, chair of the Judicial & Legislative/Personnel & Labor Committee, said, “I’m not too happy. We’re still working on it.”
The number of retail adult-use stores the city allows could increase, Plemel said. A meeting of the Committee of the Whole is being scheduled, he said, and he would like to see the city expand the number of retail licenses to at least two more.
Council member Dennis Klitzke said, “If the whole thing was laid out correctly … I think they would vote to add two additional licenses.” He thinks the ordinance needs to be changed.
Regarding the selection process, Klitzke said he was irritated at how companies received more points for buying an existing building and improving it than they would for building a new construction at a vacant lot because it encouraged applicants to displace Menominee businesses already on the tax roll.
“I didn’t want to dislocate businesses. We don’t want to trade jobs for jobs. We want to create jobs,” said Klitzke, who was recused from the city council discussion and vote on the marijuana licenses at the Sept. 20 meeting due to what some council members said was a perceived conflict of interest because he owns a commercial building at a location approved for a marijuana store.
Council member Josh Jones also raised a possible conflict, saying his brother was an investor in a marijuana company, but the council voted to allow him to continue to participate in the council’s approval process.
Klitzke said he voted to recuse himself from the marijuana discussions because, he said, “I really didn’t have a choice. If the other city council members voted against me—and the majority voted against me—I couldn’t vote.” Klitzke said he was approached months ago by a developer for Ottawa Innovations who expressed interest in his location at 3120 10th St., but a transaction didn’t materialize. Instead Ottawa Innovations/Higher Love applied for a retail license at 1400 8th Ave. and for grow permits at a vacant lot behind Anderson Auto on 10th Street. Klitzke said he doesn’t have a contract on his property at 3120 10th St.
The selection committee’s decision to recommend Ottawa Innovations’ grow permits but not its retail applications indicates a problem, Klitzke said. “Without a retail place here, why would you build your grow facility here? You would put your grow facility near your retail facilities,” he said.
But Ottawa innovations could bring as many as 80 new jobs and a $10 million investment to Menominee, he said.
The city council should act quickly to ensure marijuana retailers actually open here, he said.
“This is a one-shot deal. Either (the marijuana companies) come here or they don’t. They’re going to locate somewhere else and that will be that. This is an opportunity to generate revenue, expand the tax base and generate good-paying jobs,” Klitzke said.
Whether the marijuana companies that received Menominee City Council approval Sept. 20 will act on their plans over the next six months remains to be seen, but Plemel suggested the 180-day period companies were given to build out their new facilities could be extended. For a new retail location to be completed in 180 days, “that would mean it has to be done during winter. That doesn’t happen here in the winter. Construction ends Nov. 15. The wording is going to be changed. The way it is now wouldn’t be fair to anybody.”
Applicants for marijuana stores had to commit to a location on their applications, and they had to be in a commercial zone for retail or an industrial M-1 zone for a grow facility, Plemel said. Klitzke said the downtown waterfront commercial area was off limits.
The city didn’t explore what businesses might be forced to move if the marijuana stores buy the property they’re leasing, Plemel said.
“You’d like to see some of them continue,” Plemel said. “We’re not forcing them to sell.”
What A&B Auto in Menominee will do if The Fire Station opens a recreational-use retail store at its location hasn’t been announced.
Plemel said the issue with the selection committee’s recommendations was how the companies were scored and the extra requirements for Attitude Wellness and The Fire Station.
Regarding the requirement Attitude Wellness receive a special-use permit, “There’s no language in the ordinance that has anything to do with saying that. I think they made a mistake there,” Plemel said.
Another company said they would build an office building at the location, besides retail and grow facilities, but the selection committee didn’t assign points for it. “They said that doesn’t count. Of course it counts. Kimberly Clark’s office building is in Marinette,” Plemel said, and it counts as a business.