Tokyo Smoke to open cannabis shop in Toronto

The retailer will sell its first recreational cannabis in Ontario after taking over HMV's former flagship near Yonge-Dundas Square.

The retail space at 333 Yonge St. in Toronto, when it was occupied by HMV’s Canadian flagship location (pictured, above left); a Tokyo Smoke cafe in Toronto (pictured, above right).

Cannabis lifestyle brand Tokyo Smoke is set to open a new location in Toronto, which will be its first permitted to sell recreational cannabis in Ontario.

According to a listing of cannabis retail store applications on the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) website, Tokyo Smoke has reached an agreement with Colin Campbell, one of the 25 winners of a lottery for the chance to operate a cannabis store in the province and one of five in Toronto. The store is set to be located at 333 Yonge St., steps away from Yonge and Dundas Square and CF Eaton Centre shopping mall, two of the busiest pedestrian and retail centres in the city, as well as near the Ryerson University campus.

The space has been vacant since 2017, when previous occupant HMV closed its store there ahead of its shutting down in the Canadian market. The location was the retailer’s Canadian flagship, occupying three floors and covering 4,000 sq. ft. However, it is not clear if Tokyo Smoke will be utilizing the entirety of the space for its retail operations.

Tokyo Smoke currently operates five other locations in Toronto that are not permitted to sell cannabis, but do sell coffee alongside cannabis accessories. Tokyo Smoke, founded in 2015, was one of the earliest brands to attempt to take more of a high-end approach to cannabis, selling sleekly designed accessories in trendy coffee shop-style locations. It has four stores in Manitoba that are licensed to sell recreational cannabis.

It’s unlikely the store will be open by April 1, as the AGCO website currently states that a public consultation period on the location is open until April 2. While this means the company might be liable for a $12,500 fine for not meeting the government’s deadline of having stores open by April 1, it may be able to avoid further fines the government plans to levy against owners of stores that aren’t open by April 15 and April 30.

Those tight deadlines, established after the Ontario government decided to privatize cannabis sales in the province just months ahead of legalization, have led many of the lottery winners to reach deals with cannabis retailers who had not won retail opportunities through the lottery, but had the resources to get stores open by April 1.

Of the 25 people who won the opportunity to apply for a cannabis retail license in Ontario, only 22 are currently listed by the AGCO as having submitted their application. Last month, the AGCO disqualified one of the winners from being able to apply after violating a rule that prohibits someone from changing the name of the person on an application or the corporate structure of the company operating the store.

Canopy Growth, which acquired Tokyo Smoke parent company Hiku last year, announced in February that it had partnered with convenience store operator Couche Tard and reached a deal with a lottery winner based in London, Ont. to open a store under its Tweed brand there.