Downtown fire challenges public knowledge of cannabis facilities in Prince Rupert – Prince Rupert Northern View


Licensed cannabis grow operations in the city center must be known to the public, Prince Rupert business owner Terry Sawka said May 3.

“Everyone is talking about it, but there’s a reluctance to address the issue of downtown grow operations,” he said. The view from the North.

Sawka is associated with running a business at the Belmont Hotel, which was destroyed in a fire on May 1. He alleges that the building next door housed a cannabis grow operation and that these should be monitored under the same conditions as bars and hotels.

As reported in The view from the north online on May 3, Prince Rupert Fire Rescue confirmed that the fire that destroyed the Belmont Hotel started in the nearby building, which was previously managed and known as Rose’s Oriental Food and Gifts. An investigation into the cause of the fire was underway on May 4.

Sawka said that two and a half or three years ago the building next door sold.

“Next thing you know, we have a pot smell coming into our building. At harvest time, if you were at the Save On grocery store, you could smell the shit. And that’s when I started complaining to town…even customers would come up and ask if we were allowed to sell weed, and we’d be like, ‘No, the smell is from the weed. Street corner”.

Rose’s building sold before the smell started and was offered to Sawka’s family for purchase, but they declined. For years the building next to the hotel had brown paper on the doors and windows. However, Sawka said he had no idea who the new owners were and to his knowledge they did not come to the site the night of the fire.

“I had my opinion that there was a grow operation going on there. I have raised my concerns with the town hall and various members of council. I’ve had discussions with Jennifer Rice about this. I had a message with Taylor Bachrach,” he said.

“What I hear…I get the same old tone from everyone – that this is a matter of federal jurisdiction. No one seems to want to touch it. And it’s not the only building. It’s not the only building in town.

“The town hall told me that these are legal operations. Although these are legal operations, someone has to give them licenses.

“You know, there are at least five or six that everyone knows in town that operate downtown. When you ask the town hall, they are very evasive as far as I am concerned.

Sawka said that when the hotel and bar were operating before the pandemic, fire crews went monthly to inspect the logbook, making sure all emergency exits were on, fire extinguishers were fully operational and that if there were any unremoved items from the blocking outlets, the cases would be “redacted”.

“So if it’s a rule for the alcohol industry, the same rule [should be] applicable to the pot culture industry.

Sawka said he was at the hotel and the liquor store “all the time”, doing maintenance on the building.

Over the past six months plans were underway with an engineer and designer hired to refurbish the hotel and bar. As recently as April 25, the engineer had flown in from Vancouver at Sawka’s expense to advance construction plans.

“I’ve never seen anyone come into that building and do an electrical inspection or a fire inspection,” he said of Rose’s former shop.

“People say when you have a grow-0p, it’s a grow-and-burn operation. Eventually, these places burn… the results speak for themselves.

The loss of the hotel was devastating for his family, who have owned the establishment since 1963, when his father-in-law first bought it, he said. The fire damage affected the liquor store which was on the opposite side of the hotel from where Sawka claims the culture was. He said cannabis plants can be seen in the debris.

While the liquor store building still stands, part of a wall is missing, the interior is water damaged and there may now be structural integrity issues, he said. . This is not about a weekend of cleaning and just reopening the doors.

The eight liquor store employees were also affected as they can no longer work. One staff member has been there for more than 20 years, he said.

Pending the results of the fire investigation and insurance results, he said plans were to rebuild. But, he said, just as commercial grow operations should be made public, so should survey results.

“[Fire investigation results] should be common knowledge. If there was a fire as a result of legal or illegal container growing, it should be common knowledge. If not, then what are you hiding?

The Northern View has contacted the City of Prince Rupert, MP Jennifer Rice and MP Taylor Bachrach for comment.


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