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Lawsuit seeks to block dispensary from opening in old Rainforest Café

Plans to open a marijuana dispensary in the old Rainforest Café restaurant in River North are now the subject of a lawsuit.

Illinois state law doesn’t allow dispensaries within 1,500 feet of each other. The owners of an established dispensary nearby claim opening a new one at the Rainforest Café site would violate that law.

The proposed Rainforest Café dispensary would be at 605 North Clark Street, while the existing Green Rose Dispensary is at 612 North Wells.

The city council’s zoning board approved the dispensary in November 2022, and has been subject to controversies since plans began to emerge.

Robert Brown, a neighborhood resident, had asked the board to reject the dispensary’s application, questioning Progressive Treatment Solutions’ role in its partnership with BioPharm to take over the former restaurant site at 605 N. Clark St.

Brown questioned the partners’ eligibility under state law as a social equity firm – the qualifying factor allowing the companies to open a Consume brand dispensary in River North, an area that’s already packed with weed shops.

The exception to allow a dispensary to operate within 1,500 feet of other existing dispensaries is if it is owned by a social equity applicant, part of a legislative effort to increase minority ownership in the industry.

Four dispensaries are now operating within 1,500 feet of the proposed shop, and PTS, which initially proposed the plan on its own, without partners, didn’t qualify as a social equity firm.

The Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals voted 3-1 in favor of the application.