Market manager wants to keep ByWard brand off cannabis shop

Ottawa Markets says it wants a proposed cannabis store to keep "ByWard Market" out of its name.

'ByWard Market Cannabis' proposed for 129 York St., a former BBQ restaurant

Jeff Darwin, executive director of Ottawa Markets, says his organization made a submission to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario to underline the importance of the ByWard Market name. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

The group managing Ottawa's ByWard Market says it wants a proposed cannabis store on York Street to keep "ByWard Market" out of its name.

The arms-length municipal body Ottawa Markets made a submission to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) asking to protect the brand of the nearly 200-year-old heritage district.

Its executive director said there is concern about how a store called ByWard Market Cannabis might affect the area's family-friendly image.

"I guess in a worst-case scenario you might have a new bus driver stopping in front of ByWard Market Cannabis and letting the kids off, saying, 'Hey, we've arrived in the ByWard Market,'" Jeff Darwin said.

Darwin acknowledged the request is not legally binding and he has no objection to the cannabis business itself.

"The name is out there, there's no particular protections around it. They or anyone else can use that name," he said.

"There would be nothing to stop them from doing that, other than us suggesting it is a rather family-friendly, old, agricultural-type brand that we're trying to keep that way."

Retailer looking for solution

Michael Patterson, one of the retail lottery winners, said in an email he has heard the concerns of Lowertown residents. 

He and his business partner have lived in Ottawa for decades and understand the importance of the Market's name, he said.

"We certainly did not expect the concern over our chosen name given that an American multinational hospitality company has used it for one of their hotels in the Market since 2016," he said, referring to Andaz Ottawa ByWard Market.

"Nonetheless, we are taking the concerns to heart and are working on a solution with the AGCO and Fire & Flower [the Alberta cannabis company hired for licensing and consulting services]."

The new cannabis retailer would replace the Smoque Shack restaurant at 129 York St. Smoque Shack has moved to City Centre near Bayview station. (Supplied)

Local Coun. Mathieu Fleury said he has spoken to AGCO officials and the company and they appear to be working toward a fix that acknowledges Darwin's concerns.

The period for submitting comments to the AGCO for this proposal closed March 6.

The AGCO manages licenses for businesses selling alcohol and cannabis and one of the criteria is whether the proposal is in the public interest.

The commenting period is over for another Ottawa cannabis shop proposal on Wellington Street West and closes today for the third and final shop at the intersection of Bank and James streets in Centretown.

The region's two other proposals are in downtown Kingston.

Fleury said he will organize a meeting between the retailer and the community before it opens in April so they can discuss the impact on the area.

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