Rolling on the Flore

The former Cafe Flore has plans to open its own dispensary in the Castro on a block that’s ‘kind’ of historic.

In the past, an oversize statue of Santa Claus smoking an unreasonably huge joint went up every year during the Christmas season at beloved Castro restaurant Cafe Flore. In the future,
real-life huge joints may be available at Flore.

Flore’s new owners are applying for a cannabis dispensary permit to sell both recreational and medical marijuana. Billed as a “unique Castro-style adult cannabis showroom,” the dispensary would not be found at the longtime Cafe Flore space, but instead across the street at the 258 Noe Street spot that is currently the Gloss’N’Glam nail salon.

We should note that “Cafe Flore” has been renamed to simply “Flore” under the new owners who bought the 45-year-old patio cafe in late 2016. The proposed dispensary would be known as the Flore Store, and it will be a nod to Cafe Flore’s historical importance in the marijuana legalization movement.

“It can’t be overstated what a role Cafe Flore played,” says Flore co-owner Terrance Alan. “It was Cafe Flore where Dennis Peron and Brownie Mary met and came up with the idea of Prop. 215.”

Alan has been deep in the weeds of San Francisco marijuana legalization for years. He was the founding president of the San Francisco Entertainment Commission, and until earlier this year served as the chairperson of the San Francisco Cannabis State Legalization Task Force that advised City Hall on cannabis legalization matters. That commission was created back in 2015 — before California even had legal adult-use cannabis.

But that doesn’t give Alan a free pass to pull any sticky-icky strings he wants, and Flore has to play by the same rules as any other cannabis business. An attempt to turn Flore into a “cannabis cafe” with infused food and drinks was scuttled in 2017, because the place has a liquor license and therefore could not provide cannabis. Their menu of CBD-infused cocktails also went up in smoke when the Jan. 1, 2018 regulations went into effect forbidding such items.

Right now, the Flore Store’s most pressing problem is it doesn’t have a permit to sell marijuana. In fact, no one has the kind of cannabis permit that Flore is seeking.

You may have noticed that not a single new San Francisco dispensary has opened since recreational sales started Jan. 6. That’s not an accident.

All existing S.F. dispensaries were grandfathered in  for eligibility under the old medical cannabis dispensary rules, and they’re currently operating on six-month temporary permits. No one has applied for, or been granted, a new permit yet.

“We’ll be requesting authorization on a permit that’s never been asked for,” Alan says, noting that the Office of Cannabis is still issuing referrals vetting numerous applicants. “We’re going to be one of the first, I hope, to be put through the process. We don’t even know if we’ve gotten through Step One yet.”

That first step is getting a conditional use authorization from the Planning Commission. The process is lengthy, and the team has plans to give the location a big facelift in the meantime.

“Following the approval of conditional use will be building permits that will enable us to restore the building to its former glory,” Alan tells us. “We’ll remove all the vinyl siding and restore it, to match the Victorian style that we see up and down Noe Street.”

Patrons enjoy the sushine on the patio at Flore on Monday, June 4, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Plans also include a “living wall” of plants and flowers facing the adjacent Noe-Beaver Mini Park Community Garden, and a mural project for which Flore is currently soliciting ideas and designs.

But despite the longtime cafe branding and the adjacent Flore restaurant, you will not be able to smoke marijuana or consume edibles on-site at either Flore location.

“The Flore Store is very small,” Alan says. “It will be about 900 square feet, so it will be designed as a small, neighborhood-serving cannabis retail, with reimagined edible items under the Flore banner.

“I say ‘reimagined edible items’ because when you think of edibles nowadays, under the current law, you think of packaged brownies, gummy bears, cookies, packaged things,” he explains. “Where I believe Flore will be able to evolve edibles is in custom things such as salad dressings, coffee and drink additives, and sauces that you can take home.”

Alan has high hopes the bureaucratic red tape can be hashed out within the next 12 months, and the Flore Store can help spearhead a retail revival in a Castro where storefronts are struggling and the neighborhood is becoming less of a gayborhood.

“Now we have people with kids and strollers,” Alan says, while still recalling Flore’s gay subculture roots. “The neighborhood has changed, but Cafe Flore welcomes everybody.”