Cannabis in Illinois

Days After Opening, River North Cannabis Dispensary Shut Down Over Permit Issue

MOCA dispensary opened this week on Ohio Street in Chicago's River North neighborhood

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Just days after opening the city of Chicago’s second cannabis dispensary in the River North neighborhood, Modern Cannabis, known as MOCA, has already been shut down.

“On July 16, 2020, DOB issued a stop work order at 216 W. Ohio St., a pending cannabis dispensary, due to work being completed without the proper permits,” the Chicago Department of Buildings told NBC 5 in a statement. “The stop work order will be lifted once the applicant complies with the cannabis dispensary requirements outlined in the Municipal Code of Chicago and the Special Use issued by the Zoning Board of Appeals, obtains the proper permits and pays the associated fines.”

In a letter sent Friday to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, Matthew Beaudet, the city’s acting building commissioner, cited a litany of problems with MOCA’s new location. Beaudet said the company had submitted its first zoning plans to the city in February, and that after several corrections, they received conditional approval on May 21, but never applied for a full renovation permit for the Ohio Street location.

“The conversion of a restaurant to a cannabis dispensary would require physical and mechanical work to the premises that would require a building permit,” the commissioner wrote. “No building permit application for interior renovation of the premises for a cannabis dispensary has been applied for, and no certificate of occupancy application for a change of occupancy has been applied for.”

Beaudet also said MOCA began building a wooden fence on the patio area of the property without proper permits, and a stop-work order was issued Thursday. 

This was after the Zoning Board of Appeals had ordered the company to build “a non-transparent permanent structure enclosing the adjacent patio to prevent outdoor customer queuing.”

In an email to NBC 5 late Friday, MOCA CEO Danny Marks said the company had “a few minor issues related to our building permits to sort out, and expect to reopen shortly.”

“The confusion was primarily based on the fact that we did not do any construction, only cosmetic work and had a misunderstanding about how to treat that change of use,” Marks said.  “It should be resolved quickly, and we expect to reopen early next week.”

Marks said his company was attempting to move quickly to correct the issues and called the city and state “helpful” in that process.

“This is being dealt with diligently,” he said. “It is unfortunate, because I am sure there are not many businesses creating 50 new jobs this week.”

MOCA’s entry into recreational cannabis in Chicago has been a rocky one. 

Just days after legalization, the company’s Logan Square dispensary was burglarized and the thieves made off with a reported $200,000. 

Information in official reports suggested the heist was an inside job.  Investigators said the thieves used a magnetic swipe card to enter the business during the predawn hours, and appeared to have known how to shut down the video surveillance and alarm systems.

A police investigative report obtained by NBC 5 Investigates indicated the burglars also knew that a dumbwaiter would take them from the first floor to the downstairs vault area, where they were able to cut into a cash box.

At the time, Marks suggested he knew who was responsible.

"If one security company sets up your entire system, no matter how reputable they are and how much you pay them, there's going to be one person---at least--besides you, who knows how to undo that system," Marks said. "Essentially we learned that we need to have another system that we don't tell the security company about."

After those initial comments, Marks said later that he did not mean to suggest that MOCA's own security company was to blame.

"My point was that even the best of systems can have vulnerabilities and they could be in places you don't expect," he said. "But to be clear, we have no reason to suspect there was involvement from anyone associated with the security company that installed our system."

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