Durango business owners are closely divided on whether retail pot stores should operate downtown.
More than 300 Durango Chamber of Commerce members responded to a survey on the issue last week. The chamber’s results indicate, at least among some business owners, the location of these businesses could be controversial.
The Durango Business Improvement District sent the same study to its constituents, who have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to respond. They have received about 98 responses so far.
More than a third of the chamber’s 800 members took the survey, and that was about the same amount of respondents who weighed in on the grocery disposable bag-fee debate last year.
“The response rate was really good considering how many people we sent it out to,” said Jack Llewellyn, chamber executive director.
Slightly more than half of respondents, about 51 percent, said they weren’t in favor of retail pot stores locating in the Central Business District, compared with 47 percent who said they were in favor.
A draft ordinance by the city bans retail marijuana stores in the district.
“Some people have said they’re very concerned that this will impact the fabric of the downtown Central Business District,” Llewellyn said. “Some people have said that done properly, you would never know that it is a recreational shop.”
Durango entrepreneur Ted Hermesman strongly opposes retail pot shops downtown, both as a businessman and a family man. He didn’t get the survey from the chamber or BID, but he said he would not rent space on Main Avenue to this type of business.
“This is not what we need,” he said. “Some people are looking for the buck. I’m not. I’m here. I’m going to die here.”
For those who opposed recreational marijuana sales downtown, most of them preferred the stores go to the Bodo Industrial Park or north Main Avenue. Other people chose South Durango, Three Springs and “other.”
Tim Wheeler, owner of Durango Coffee Co. retail location, said he responded to the survey from a BID email. The improvement district has about 800 constituents and reaches some business owners not reached by the chamber. The surveys had the exact same questions.
Wheeler said he is for the retail stores in the downtown area. The Central Business District is a shopping district, and these retailers would help drive more traffic to stores. The fact that the results were so close in the chamber survey means there’s no mandate either way, he said.
He often has to clean up vomit and other trash around his business after the bars close, and people put up with that, so banning stores also selling a legal product puzzles him, he said.
“I would not say that it’s going to be a huge economic driver, but it’s another factor, it adds to the overall traffic in the downtown – or wherever these will be located,” he said. “We shouldn’t discount that, we should take advantage of it. Think of it as a green-jobs program.”
The third survey question asked whether business owners would favor recreational pot stores downtown if they were limited to one or two. About 44 percent said “yes,” 49 percent said “no,” and 6.5 percent didn’t respond.
All the survey responses are expected to be shared with the city of Durango.