The days of signing into medicinal pot shops as Anita Bonghit may be over in the City of North Vancouver.
While pot shops in the city are banned pending legalization, council unanimously supported a new business licence bylaw making it mandatory for customers and visitors at medical pot shops to show photo ID to get past the reception desk. Those names must also be recorded in a visitor’s log to be maintained for two years.
Pot shop proprietors, employees and volunteers will be required to undergo a criminal background and reference check before beginning work. Investors with a financial interest of more than $25,000 in a pot shop will need similar clearance.
The new rules also boost the base fee for business licences from $111 to $128.
Mayor Darrell Mussatto previously asked for assurances the city wasn’t profiting from licence fees.
“You get absolutely nothing back for it, other than you get your business registered at the city,” he said at a May council meeting. “I just don’t want to see it as a cash grab for the city.”
Mussatto joined council in supporting the new fee structure after hearing support from representatives of both the Lower Lonsdale Business Improvement Area and the North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce.
The support was largely based on the efficiencies gained by cutting the number of business categories from 570 to 112.
The current system is “unreasonably cumbersome and time consuming to administer,” according to city staff.
The change was appreciated by Coun. Craig Keating, who drew on German history in his remarks.
“Back in the 1700s there used to be 500 and some odd different German principalities. By 1848 they got down to 38, so we’re making progress,” he said.
The only note of concern was voiced by Sailor Hagar’s co-owner Brian Riedlinger, who complained liquor primary licences cost more than the licence for a restaurant that serves alcohol.
“Some of the food primary licences in the City of North Vancouver, because of their sheer size, and/or their business practices, sell more alcohol than Sailor Hagar’s pub on a daily basis,” he said.
Following Riedlinger’s comments, Keating asked city staff for a report and suggested equalizing licence fees for pubs and late-night restaurants prior to the bylaw’s final approval.
After three years of flat fees, a $17 hike represents a “very fair increase,” according to Coun. Holly Back.
The change is welcome, but Coun. Rod Clark suggested the next council continue to reduce the number of business categories.
“We’re making progress but we have a ways to go,” he said.
“Progress is fine,” Keating responded. “We eventually got down to one Germany and it didn’t always work out for the best.”
The District of North Vancouver charges a base fee of $299.40 for a one- or two-person business and $735.80 for a business with 20 employees. The fees escalate for every 10 employees to a maximum charge of $4,666.
West Vancouver charges $147 to license most businesses operating in a space less than 750 square feet and an extra $91 for each additional 1,000 square feet. Other fees dip as low as $124 for small businesses such as catering and dog walking companies.