After four years of neighborhood protests, public hearings and community debates, the Sunset officially opened its first pot club.
The Barbary Coast Collective, which already owns shops in SoMa and the Mission, celebrated the grand opening of its Sunset location near the corner of 23rd Avenue and Irving Street this Friday, after opening quietly last month.
“This side of the town was a little resistant to cannabis,” said Barbary Coast Sunset CEO Jesse Henry. “And, you know, we’ve still got a couple of people we gotta win over, but so far so good.”
Henry said that Friday’s opening event was an important milestone for cannabis access in The City, which is predominantly clustered in the northeastern part of town due to restrictive retail zoning. There is only one other dispensary in the Avenues, Harvest in the Richmond District.
“It’s just so convenient,” a new customer who gave his name only as Mike told The Examiner at the opening. “There’s nothing else in this area, not that I know of. I live in the Richmond and I used to have to go all the way south of Market, past Eighth Street (to buy marijuana).”
“We really looked at the city as a whole, and saw that this side of town didn’t really have access to cannabis,” Henry told The Examiner. “Being a part of the community – being a positive part of the community – is really important to us.”
The business first filed a request to operate a dispensary in the district in 2015. But for two years, Henry said he and his team battled public opposition.
Barbary Coast faced two appeals from predominantly Chinese neighborhood groups concerned that the dispensary would attract crime, tourists and loiterers and spread unwanted odors down the streets.
According to spokesperson Joe Arellano, Barbary Coast attended two public hearings and held 18 community meetings before receiving the final OK to open the store on Dec. 3 2017, just two months after the Board of Supervisors shot down a similar proposal by rival dispensary The Apothecarium.
Representatives said that Barbary Coast won over the local community’s support by welcoming public feedback.
Before the supervisors’ 2017 approval, the business promised to not display marijuana signage, to hire security guards to discourage loitering and smoking near the store, and to temporarily shorten its hours of operation from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. to limit children’s exposure to the store on their way to school.
“It’s the same philosophy that we’ve had with our other dispensaries: it’s safe, it’s clean, it’s comfortable,” Henry told The Examiner.
Henry said the Barbary Coast Sunset staff worked hard to dissociate itself from first-generation pot clubs, with “bulletproof glass and no real interaction with the neighborhood and the community.”
“We’re really on a third and fourth generation of clubs,” Henry added. “We want to have that face-to-face interaction, so people can feel comfortable here and we can make sure they get what they need.”
The store also promised to fund neighborhood services and nonprofits, and support the Outer Sunset Merchant and Professional Association.
However, competitor The Apothecarium has alleged Barbary Coast won its permit by delivering about $75,000 in donations to the Board of Supervisors through politically-connected business co-owner and Chinatown power broker David Ho.
The company operating the Apothecarium, PNB Noriega LLC, took The City to court in January 2018, claiming supervisors had unethically favored its politically-connected rival and demanding that they reverse their rejection of the store’s permit. That case is still pending.
In the meanwhile, Barbary Coast Sunset remains the only marijuana dispensary for miles on the west side of The City.