Superette CEO cheers Ontario's decision to reopen cannabis market

Superette
Superette's store at 1306 Wellington St. W. remains closed to the public, but customers will now be allowed to pick up their cannabis orders outside. Photo provided

Superette CEO Mimi Lam is taking her cannabis retailing business to the street after the Ontario government backtracked on last week’s decision to shut down all private pot sales in the province in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like all authorized weed retailers across Ontario, Superette will now be allowed to sell its products online for delivery or curbside pickup. A news release from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario says the temporary measure is the result of an emergency order introduced Tuesday and will continue for the next 14 days, with the possibility of an extension.

“I’m absolutely thrilled by the decision,” Lam told OBJ on Wednesday, adding Superette will reopen Thursday morning and offer curbside pickup outside its store on Wellington Street West.

“If we weren’t able to have some sort of revenue at this store, it would have been extremely challenging.”

The commission says authorized cannabis stores can sell, deliver and offer curbside pickup of up to 30 grams of weed from Monday to Sunday, between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m., and customers must pay for their products in advance by phone or online.

Lam says Superette, which was named one of the city’s best new businesses at the 2019 Best Ottawa Business Awards, will launch a delivery service once it irons out all the logistics. She’s also lobbying the province to permit touchless payment options that will allow customers to tap their debit or credit cards upon delivery or pickup.

While Lam says she understands the need to keep customers out of the store as part of a province-wide effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, she says the closure of her brick-and-mortar location is bound to have an impact on her bottom line.

She’s expecting to bring back about 20 of Superette’s 40-plus employees, who were left without jobs after last Friday’s announcement that cannabis retailers were being removed from the province’s list of essential businesses.

The Ford government’s decision to reverse course comes after a concerted lobbying effort from Ontario’s cannabis retailers. One of those pot companies, Vancouver-based Hobo Cannabis, told OBJ earlier this week that prohibiting private retailers from operating during the COVID-19 crisis would present black-market dealers with a “silver platter” to snap up illicit business.

Still, Lam says that while opening up online sales will help keep cannabis retailers afloat, physical distancing restrictions and other measures put in place to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus ​– such as a shutdown of most commercial construction projects ​– present major hurdles for her business.

Superette has four other stores in the planning stages, including one at 852 Bank St. in the Glebe and three in the Greater Toronto Area. With the gaming commission putting all new cannabis licence authorizations on hold and construction of new retail projects at a standstill, Lam says it’s anyone’s guess when Superette’s expansion plans will get back on track.

“Until things get back to normal, we’re in a bit of a holding period,” she says.   

– With files from the Canadian Press