The Panera Bread at 1711 N. Richmond Road in McHenry is set to close May 1 while a new location is constructed nearby, but the current location already has a new tenant.
Recreational marijuana dispensary company EarthMed is set to take possession of the building that day. The company plans to open a dispensary there 90 to 120 days later, Chief Operating Officer Michael Perez said.
“We looked at McHenry years ago. We liked the location. It is a very growing suburb,” Perez said this week.
His company operates two other dispensaries in Illinois, in Addison and Rosemont. The company received an additional state dispensary license through the social equity lottery, Perez said.
The company qualified for the lottery by hiring people who fit the state’s social equity description, he said, including living in an area with a high incarceration rate for past marijuana laws violations or having a qualifying arrest or conviction, among other state guidelines.
We looked at McHenry years ago. We liked the location. It is a very growing suburb.— EarthMed Chief Operating Officer Michael Perez
Two other dispensaries now are either building out or seeking permits in McHenry County.
Zachary Zises, of 280E LLC, received Richmond Village Board approval in October to open a dispensary at the former Blackhawk Bank, 9705 Prairie Ridge Road. The building fronts on Route 12 (Main Street) and is 9 miles from the EarthMed McHenry location.
Zises originally said he wanted to open by today, April 20, also known as 420 in the recreational pot world.
The company is looking at early June, said Abigail Watkins, marketing director for what will be Spark’d Dispensary in Richmond. It has one store open in Hoffman Estates and is building out a store in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood.
Six Labs Inc. co-founder Joseph Ori said in February the company planned to open a location at 1411 S. Eastwood Drive, Woodstock, on April 1 that would incorporate transportation and infusion licenses with an eye toward a dispensary, too. A public hearing for that dispensary is set for the 7 p.m. Thursday Plan Commission meeting.
As EarthMed looked for a location, Perez said he reached out to several communities that had approved dispensary operations. McHenry was the right location, he said.
“It has visibility [and] convenience. It is a great location. ... right off of Route 31,″ which sees a lot of traffic. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, the location saw 22,200 cars a day in 2021.
McHenry also made it easy to locate there, Perez said.
The city tweaked its marijuana dispensary rules twice, Community Development Director Ross Polerecky said. In July 2021, the City Council made recreational marijuana dispensaries an approved use in highway commercial zones, which means a dispensary does not need to go through the city’s zoning process or need council approval to move there.
To help developers find sites, city staff created an interactive map for its website, showing the zoning for Cannabis Dispensary & Grower Permitted Areas. Dispensaries, marijuana growers or infusers are not allowed in the downtown or within 1,000 feet of a school or day care, Polerecky said.
A marijuana infuser, Future of the Leaf, had its permits approved in early 2022 and now has a location under construction at 3900 Mercy Drive, Polerecky said. Infusers create marijuana-infused edible products for dispensaries.
In November, McHenry City Council reduced the number of allowed dispensary licenses from two to one, and increased its portion of the sales tax to 3%, up from 1.5%.
Perez “reached out at the beginning and asked us what our processes are for a dispensary in town. It is an allowed use in our commercial highway corridors. They went out and looked for a spot to locate to,” Polerecky said.
“They had the license all ready to go; we didn’t need special zoning. The [city] wanted us,” Perez said.
Although EarthMed won’t take possession of the Route 31 site until May, the company already has pulled construction permits for the work needed, Polerecky said.
“We are going to put a significant amount of money in there” to make the building dispensary-ready, including meeting state requirements for security systems and cameras, Perez said.
What is unknown is the amount of marijuana sales tax dollars McHenry, or the other cities waiting for a dispensary to open, will receive.
“We are hoping to bring as much [tax] money possible in for them. In terms of dollar amounts, ... you don’t really know where the other dispensaries are going until they pop up,” Perez said.
Polerecky said the city of McHenry does not have hard numbers on potential tax revenues either. “It would just be an estimate, or kind of a guesstimate at this time. [The estimate] was several hundred thousand dollars” for the city.
What is known is that instead of towns in Lake and Cook counties receiving local marijuana tax dollars, now McHenry County will, said McHenry County Board member Pamela Althoff, R-McHenry. She also is executive director of the Cannabis Business Association of Illinois.
“It is not all going to go to one dispensary location. The individual municipalities will receive more tax revenue than those without them,” Althoff said.
The new Panera Bread location, with a drive-thru, is set to open at McCullom Lake Road and Route 31 in 150 days, McHenry Economic Development Director Doug Martin said.