It could be that Fine Fettle Dispensary will handle 40 to 50 recreational marijuana customers per hour when it opens in Stamford.
To prepare for such a large number of transactions, Fine Fettle CEO Benjamin Zachs plans to install 12 cash registers. He expanded the number of parking spaces beyond what zoning regulations require for his Research Drive shop, and will ask customers to order online and visit only to pick up.
If all goes as planned, Zachs thinks he can serve each customer in 2.5 to 4 minutes, he told members of the Zoning Board Monday.
Board members approved the dispensary – which they OK’d a year ago for selling marijuana to medical patients – to also sell to recreational customers, pending award of Fine Fettle’s state license to do both.
But board member William Morris kept asking where all the cars will go on Research Drive, the main artery in a tightly congested Glenbrook industrial area known as Research Park.
“I am concerned that we will be out of parking spaces pretty quickly,” Morris said during the board’s virtual meeting. “There are a lot of businesses in there and I don’t think any of them have enough parking.”
Zachs said that, for the first month or so after recreational sales begin, customer traffic is typically heavy.
“As more operators come on board, the market will become more competitive,” he told the board.
He said Fine Fettle knows the flow of the business because it operates a medical marijuana dispensary in Willimantic and another in Newington, both in upstate Connecticut.
Those shops have zoning approvals to add recreational sales but are awaiting state licenses, he said. Fine Fettle operates two shops in Massachusetts that sell to medical patients and recreational customers.
Zachs said that, for the Stamford shop, he contracted with a management company, LAZ Parking, to move cars through the site. LAZ employees will help customers park, let the shop know which pickup customers are waiting, and take orders from customers who did not order online.
Fine Fettle is seeking to share parking space with other businesses in Research Park, Zachs said. The company offered its employees $200 a month if they carpool, ride a bike, or use public transportation for at least half of their monthly workdays.
If traffic is so intense that the city must assign a patrol officer to the area within the first 30 days of opening, the state authorizes the city to charge Fine Fettle up to $50,000 to cover the cost.
Still, the Zoning Board approval came with a condition that, before it opens, Fine Fettle must submit a plan for how it will manage parking in case of a space shortage.
But Morris had cars on his mind.
“Research Drive is used as a cut-through from Hope Street,” the Zoning Board member said. “Do we have any idea how much traffic this will generate, or are we just guessing?”
Hope is a narrow, busy street with traffic entering from multiple businesses and side streets. As it is, traffic backs up on Viaduct Road, a short, narrow hill that connects Hope Street to Research Park.
The other entrance to Research Park is from Glenbrook Road, which may draw traffic because it leads to Interstate-95 and the Stamford dispensary, so far, will be the only one in the area to offer recreational marijuana sales.
The surrounding towns of Darien, New Canaan and Greenwich have banned sales for recreational use; Norwalk instituted a temporary ban that ends in October.
The other marijuana dispensary in Stamford is Curaleaf on East Main Street, about 2 miles from Fine Fettle, according to Zoning Board information. A message left with Curaleaf asking whether that company is applying for a license to add recreational sales was not returned.
State law could help with any traffic that may build up at the Stamford pot shop.
The Department of Consumer Protection is vetting applicants seeking to make home deliveries of marijuana, and it won’t matter if customers live in a town that has banned recreational sales.
State regulations allow shops to use their own employees to make deliveries at first. Licensed delivery companies may begin operating after that.
Recreational sales could begin late this year. The state requires that the entire supply chain – stores, testing labs and growers – be licensed first, and that there is enough product to supply the market.
The same product is sold for medical and recreational use, though more potent varieties are available only to medical patients, Zachs said.
In other states, pot shops – generally restricted to out-of-the-way zones – have revitalized areas where businesses were struggling, according to multiple media sources.
“I’m happy to see that this application has come in, and this is an excellent location,” Zoning Board Chairman David Stein said.
Monday’s meeting included a public hearing on the application, but no one spoke.
“That may give us an indication that this is not much of an issue,” Stein said.
“I’m surprised we’re not hearing from anyone from the Board of Representatives,” Zoning Board member Rosanne McManus said.
The Planning Board has already approved Fine Fettle’s application to add recreational sales.
Zachs said the plan is for the shop to be open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.
Zoning Board members had a number of questions about security at the shop. Zachs said it has 58 cameras covering the building inside and out, including the parking lot.
Pot is sold in sealed, child-proof packaging, and neither employees nor customers may open the bags at the shop, he said.
“Consuming marijuana on site is strictly prohibited,” he said. “It’s illegal for us to allow it to happen.”