To say pot is popular in Seattle is a like saying traffic is terrible on Mercer at 5pm. We know.
Regardless of how popular the green substance is, that doesn’t mean the proprietors are doing as well as you may think. With tax code 280e, anywhere from 70 to 85 percent of revenue goes to federal, state, and local taxes, leaving very little for shop owners to actually turn a profit—owners like James Lathrop, who was the first person to open a dispensary in Seattle. Now Lathrop is breaking into the alcohol scene with a new bar, Ballard Republic, to help support his business.
Two years ago, he planned to move his SoDo hashery, Cannabis City, to a more populated and retail-based area, so he purchased a building on Ballard Ave and 20th. He figured the location would help increase walk-ins and boost his business overall. The building was in compliance with all the zoning ordinances that plague the legal marijuana industry—was being the key word here. Half a year after he purchased it, a new ordinance declared marijuana-related retail could no longer be in historical districts like Ballard.
Lathrop had to change his vision for the historical building. “There are 51 bars in Ballard and I’m about to be bar number 52,” joked Lathrop, almost with a tone of disbelief.
The building he purchased was originally an office complex, so it’s not retrofitted for any sort of restaurant-bar space. For historic districts and buildings, any sort of upgrades and renovations all need to go through the Ballard Historical Society—think Taylor Dosey from Gilmore Girls. And while Lathrop’s post–pot shop plan was to open a full restaurant, he's going the bar route, ensuring that minimal changes are made to the building.
The highend-cocktail-lounge-speakeasy, as Lathrop calls it, is going to play into the neighborhood's history. He describes Ballard as sort of like Texas to the United States: Having the attitude that, sure, it’s a part of Seattle...but they could—and want to—secede at any time.
As for the building itself, it’s multistoried so there will be seating both upstairs and down, and the current plan is to add an outdoor space on the 20th Ave side of the building. Lathrop's plan has changed a few times regarding food service going from restaurant, to cold plates, to just a bar, but seems to have settled on snacks to be provided by Seattle's best food trucks alongside Ballard Republic drinks.
The current opening is slated for sometime between September and October, but until then, keep tabs at Ballard Republic’s Facebook page and here on Nosh Pit; updates as we have them.