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Austin Lott. Photo by Laurelle Walsh

Fresh Greens ready to open doors at Horizon Flats

By Laurelle Walsh

A public hearing will be held at the Winthrop Town Council meeting tonight (July 2) on a conditional use permit that would allow Austin Lott to open a marijuana retail outlet in the Horizon Flats neighborhood.

Lott said he was “feeling optimistic” about the hearing, scheduled to begin at 7:05 p.m. in the Hen House at the Winthrop Barn.

“At this point it’s your basic, standard conditional use permit application,” said Winthrop Town Planner Rocklynn Culp. “I expect it to be pretty straightforward.”

At the hearing,  the council will take testimony from Lott and the public, and Culp will present a staff report with her recommendations, she said. The council may approve the application with the conditions Culp recommends, or place its own conditions. Culp said she expects a decision to be made at the meeting tonight, and the conditional use permit may be issued as soon as the next day.

The town will not issue a local business license for Lott’s store, Fresh Greens, until he receives his state license, Culp said. “We want to see his status from the Liquor Control Board before he can open his doors officially.”

Lott passed a final inspection by the state on Monday (June 30), after which he was issued a preliminary license which allows him to log on to the state’s traceability system — also known as “seed-to-sale” — to access licensed marijuana processors and begin placing orders.

Brian Smith, communications director at the Washington State Liquor Control Board, said the agency expects to issue 20 retail licenses statewide on July 7. Stores may open as soon as July 8. “Your person there in Winthrop must have had his act together to be among the first to open,” Smith remarked.

Lott tentatively plans to open Fresh Greens’ doors next week, but said he may delay opening if initial wholesale prices are too steep.

Supply is uncertain

“Supply may be an issue,” said Lott, who said on Tuesday he still didn’t know who his suppliers would be.

Smith at the Liquor Control Board said that retailers would have access to 80 licensed producer/processors, but predicted “supply will be tight to begin.”

“To get the market up and running” the state has given any new producer/processor licensees 15 days to bring in non-flowering plants from “wherever they can get them,” Smith said. “They don’t have to indicate where they got their plants.”

The state has been licensing growers since March, and it takes about 60 days to produce a mature marijuana plant, according to Smith. “We predict a robust supply once everyone is up and running.”

The state has estimated prices to be anywhere between $12 and $24 per gram, but is letting the market determine the retail price, Lott said.

Lott’s startup budget is $35,000, which includes construction and inventory. “People have been surprised it’s so low,” he said. Fresh Greens is a sole proprietorship, and the space is being rented from his family, he stressed.

“I would like this to be a place where people can gather and talk,” and maybe even conduct business, Lott said.

While Lott is still putting the finishing touches on the space, Fresh Greens already has the warm, inviting quality of a hippy cafe — with rose-tinted hand-plastered walls, rustic wood shelves, an Oriental rug and large ficus plant.

“I always hated those head shops that are always in sterile, revolting atmospheres,” Lott said. “I wanted to give this more of a coffee shop atmosphere.”

Before the state announced it would begin accepting applications last November, Lott said he had “never given any thought” to opening a marijuana store. “I had no idea of ever doing this,” said Lott, who helps run the family’s other businesses and has previously worked in the building trades.

Lott first approached the Winthrop Planning Commission in January about locating a marijuana retail outlet in the Horizon Flats Business Center, which is owned by his family.

His request for a zoning code amendment to allow retail in the neighborhood — currently zoned Industrial — was rejected in March, along with an appeal in April. 

Lott then applied for a conditional use permit in May, after the town council decided that process would be the best route to allow marijuana sales in Horizon Flats.

His experience working with Town Hall “has been an education,” said Lott.