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No hassles at this vape lounge

BY AEDAN HELMER, OTTAWA SUN
Smoke Signalz now open
Owner Francois Charlebois (left) and manager James R. at the Smoke Signalz vape lounge at 600 Rideau St.on Satruday, May 16, 2015. AEDAN HELMER/ OTTAWA SUN

Francois Charlebois stifles a laugh when he hears about BuzzOn’s claim as the city’s first so-called marijuana vape lounge.While city officials shut down BuzzOn over a raft of building code violations Friday, Charlebois has been running his own vape shop for three months now — with no fanfare or the unwanted attention that comes with it — just a few hundred metres down the street.

Located at 600 Rideau St., the Smoke Signalz head shop — specializing in all manner of pot paraphernalia — has been serving a steady stream of members who pay to puff.

“You keep it professional,” said owner Francois Charlebois.

“We have a waiver form that we have people sign to cover us and the patient, or the user, and everything seems to be working pretty good.”

The rules are similar to BuzzOn — no mooching, no sharing, “nothing that could be seen as trafficking,” and positively no smoking… tobacco, that is.

As for hassles from cops or city officials?

“None at all,” said Charlebois.

“If they come in, we have all the records of all the customers and patients who come in here, and if they want to go through the paperwork I’d be glad to hand them over… I’ve been in contact with people (in the marijuana industry) in B.C. and Toronto and (a vape lounge) seems to be the way the market is going, so I figured I’d try it out.”

Charlebois said his shop is properly zoned, and he doesn’t sell any food products, which could ruffle feathers with city officials.

BuzzOn co-owner Wayne Robillard, who sold snacks in his lounge, claims the city is making him jump through hoops before rezoning his lounge as a restaurant, while the city claims the property was shuttered for building code violations.

“We have proper air filtration system, proper seating,” said Charlebois.

“You go the extra mile to put the proper environment in here.”

Charlebois said he’ll “gladly oblige” any licensing requirements the city comes up with, and soon hopes to expand to a larger vacant storefront next door.

“We’re at the trial and error stage, just to see if there’s enough of a customer base for it, because I’d like to move next door and make it a full-size (venue), so we could bring in TVs and sports games, UFC, boxing, things like that.

“That would make it like a bar-type lounge, but before we do that kind of expansion we want to see how it goes (here) and hopefully we’ll move in next door.”

Other area head shops, including one with three locations in the city, have said they’re taking a “wait-and-see” approach with BuzzOn and with Smoke Signalz before deciding whether to follow a similar path.

“There’s a real stigma we’re trying to get away from, that typical stoner-type,” said Smoke Signalz manager James R.

“We do really want to get away from that. We’re looking for connoisseurs and medical users.”

Twitter: @OttSunHelmer

Article source Ottawa Sun

Smoke Signalz

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