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Gander Chamber still hopeful cannabis can be beneficial to small businesses

St. Anthony business leaders don’t believe the cannabis industry will be profitable on the Great Northern Peninsula.
- file photo

GANDER, N.L. – Rod French was hoping there would have been more of a small business presence for cannabis retail in Gander, and central Newfoundland in general.

French, speaking on behalf of the Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce, made his thoughts known after the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation announced the 24 successful applicants for licensed cannabis retailers May 7.

Instead, the only successful applicant for central, was Loblaw’s, the parent to the province’s Dominion Stores. The grocery giant plans to sell from its existing smoke and lotto shops at 10 locations around the island – including Gander and Grand-Falls Windsor.

“We were a little disappointed there wasn’t more opportunity for small business to play a role in the retail process,” said French. “The parameters for the request for proposals were pretty stringent, which made it a little more difficult for small business to be able to put together a proposal, so we’re not surprised Loblaw’s was successful, they have the infrastructure and the people to be successful.”

Gander’s Dominion is also a member of the chamber, so French said he see things from both sides of the business coin.

“We’ve got a member who was successful, which we see as very positive, but in addition, we wish other small retailers had been able to put their best foot forward,” he said.

Loblaw’s, along with the other successful applicants, will now move on to the second phase of the license application. This involves further analysis of the business plan, background checks, securing municipal approval, pre-licensing inspection and a three-week public notification period during which citizens will have a chance to submit concerns or lend their support, similar to the process the NLC follows for its liquor licenses. It also includes training for the retailers.
The process is expected to take between five and seven weeks to complete.

While French wasn’t aware of any additional applications for the Gander area beyond Loblaw’s, he is holding out hope small businesses will see some benefit in the future.

According to the Telegram, six geographic areas on the island and Labrador are without potential retailers, because no applications were received.

To fill the gaps, the corporation re-issued a request for proposals on May 8 in the hope of filling them when the next round of licenses are awarded.

Among the six areas where no one applied was the Gander area — excluding the town of Gander, but including communities such as Lewisporte, Twillingate and Fogo Island.

“I would think they will revisit those areas in particular for distribution, and that perhaps, (the NLC) will revisit some of the terms and conditions of the RFP to allow retailers to come forward,” French said. “The fact that there weren’t proposals from that area, it kind of supports our contention that there should have been more opportunities for smaller retailers.”

With files from the Telegram

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