From pub to pot shop: Two Vernon businesses venture into a new market

Longhorn Pub owner Aftaab Dhillon stands outside the soon to be open cannabis retail store, The Greenhorn.
Longhorn Pub owner Aftaab Dhillon stands outside the soon to be open cannabis retail store, The Greenhorn.

VERNON - Two Vernon pubs are expanding their businesses by branching out into the recreational cannabis world.

The Longhorn Pub owner Aftaab Dhillon is set to open the Greenhorn cannabis store next week, while Squires Four Pub has applied for a licence to open Highlander Cannabis at its current Stickle Road premises sometime in the near future.

"Our industry is all about showing people a good time... it's just another entertainment business," Dhillon said.

The Longhorn Pub owner said he added to the building two years ago opening Papa John's Pizza and leaving an empty retail space in preparation for the cannabis store.

Moving into the retail cannabis business was a natural extension from running the pub on 25 Avenue.

"Being in the controlled substance (industry) and knowing how to run them and operator them... being in this industry it just seemed like the thing to do," he said.

Squires Four Pub owner Serry Massoud said he wanted to see how the industry took shape before applying for a licence. He's currently in the early stages with his application with it set to be reviewed by the Regional District of North Okanagan on July 31.

For Massoud, a retail cannabis store is a way of diversifying his business as the pub industry changes.

"Ten years ago the dream of anybody, [was to] own a pub, now the dream for the people that own the pub, [is] to sell the pub," he said.

In the 10 years he's owned Squires, the pub has gone from 65 per cent of its business coming from alcohol sales to 35 per cent. Food sales now account for 65 per cent of his business.

"It's well known you don't make money on the food," Massoud said.

The shift from drinks to food happened when the strict impaired driving laws came into place, he said.

Massoud said if his cannabis licence is successful he'll lose about 40 seats in his pub and convert the space into an 860 square feet cannabis store.

Meanwhile, Dhillon said the cannabis store is less about diversifying the pub business and more about growing the business. He recently extended the Longhorn liquor store from 1,000 to 7,000 square feet.

"It's economy of scale," he said.

The Greenhorn should be open by the middle of next week and the 2,300 square feet store will create around 15 jobs.

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