Part of the historic Palace Theatre on Stephen Avenue could soon be transformed into a pot shop, as one company has applied to convert a section of the famed venue into a cannabis store.
The development permit application was filed by Calgary-based Westleaf Cannabis Inc.
If approved, Westleaf would to turn an approximately 93-square-metre section on the west side of the building into a “very high-end cannabis retail location,” a spokesperson for the company said Sunday.
That section of the building is not currently an “active part” of the theatre but is used for storage. It was formerly used as a retail space, according to the Westleaf spokesperson.
The arrangement would see Westleaf rent the space from Concorde Entertainment Group that owns the Palace Theatre, which operates as a multi-function venue.
Designated as a provincial and national historic site in 1996, changes to certain portions of the building would require approval from the province, if those parts have been designated for protection.
“It would all just depend on what they’re looking to develop at the site and if it is regulated by the province’s heritage designation,” said Josh Traptow, executive director of the Calgary Heritage Authority.
“I don’t think there would be a concern,” he said. “I think any time that heritage buildings have active use is a good thing. If you can create more opportunities for historical buildings, it’s a win-win for the owners of the site and the property.”
The building has undergone a number of changes since it was built in 1921.
Billed as one of the grandest theatres in Western Canada during its early years, it served as the site of then-premier William Aberhart’s first radio broadcasts during the 1920s while forming the Social Credit party.
Until the opening of the Jubilee Auditorium in 1956, it was considered Calgary’s most prominent theatre and concert venue.
The Palace ran as a movie house until February 1990, when it showed its last film, Tango & Cash. It sat vacant until 1998 when it was converted into the Palace Night Club, which closed its doors in February 2004.
The venue was renamed Flames Central in 2007, as the Calgary Flames partnered with Concorde to turn the Palace into a hockey hub, calling it “a modern-day hybrid version of the interactive sports bar.” It went back to its original name in 2017 along with a broader scope.
Traptow said it’s not uncommon for heritage buildings to take on new uses, as a potential cannabis store would certainly do.
“I don’t think it would change the historical nature or anything like that,” he said.
“It’s always been a gathering place for Calgarians when it was a movie palace, and then when it went to kind of a more modern-day movie theatre and then the Flames Central, and now going back to Palace Theatre. It’s always been a place that Calgarians have gone to and I’m sure that it will continue to be as time progresses. Buildings go through natural changes and they find new purposes and new uses.”
Coun. Druh Farrell, whose ward includes the venue, expressed concern on social media Thursday about future pot shops abiding by all the necessary regulations that have been established.
“We have so many cannabis applications, I’m just stressing that we make sure they follow the rules,” she tweeted.
The province has said it will provide a maximum of 250 cannabis retail licences, with no single retailer allowed to own more than 37 stores, or 15 per cent of the total licences.
As of late last month, about 250 would-be cannabis retailers had applied to do business in Calgary alone, none of which have been approved in the lead-up to legalization.
Changes to the land-use bylaws on cannabis stores will help determine how many stores end up opening in Calgary.
The city will have a 300-metre buffer zone between cannabis retailers, which will be prohibited from setting up within 150 metres of the property line of schools and emergency shelters.