9:00am PT by Chris Gardner
L.A. Pot Store Evicts Its Rehab Neighbor: "The Irony Is Not Lost on Us"
The MedMen marijuana dispensary in L.A.'s Venice Beach has bought the three-storefront building where it's been leasing space since January 2018 and has evicted one of its neighbors — the Venice Recovery Center, a community-based recovery and 12-step clubhouse located at 414 Lincoln Blvd. where recovering addicts (including some in the entertainment industry) have been holding meetings for 11 years for everything from Alcoholics Anonymous to Debtors Anonymous.
How much MedMen spent on the building, which also houses a tattoo parlor, is not known, but not everyone is high on the deal. "The irony is not lost on us," says one VRC member. "I loved VRC — it had this cast of characters coming in and out."
The VRC had developed a reputation in the recovery community and among locals for hosting some of the more authentic if not a bit gritty meetings on the Westside. It was beloved by Venice locals and its doors welcomed everyone from Hollywood insiders to the homeless for a packed schedule with upward of 20 meetings every week. It had been on a month-to-month lease after closing out a 10-year contract there (made up of back-to-back five-year terms). VRC vacated the space and hosted its final 12-step meeting on Jan. 30.
“It wasn’t the greatest news,” VRC volunteer board member Jeff Christensen, who is sober, tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s unfortunate that the owners decided to take them up on the offer, which I understand was a good one. But our landlords gave us plenty of notice, and MedMen didn’t owe us anything. In fact, they were very helpful.”
In between VRC and MedMen is a tattoo shop, Black Diamond Tattoo, located at 412 Lincoln Blvd. That business is staying put for the time being, says a source, who adds, “but potentially, in the near future, that may change. Business is busting at the seams and there’s no room for expansion there.”
MedMen has operated out of the space since January 2018, just days after marijuana officially became legal in the state of California. Christensen notes that before MedMen, there was another dispensary located in the same space, so VRC insiders were used to co-existing with a business that serves people with a different sobriety status. It’s unclear what MedMen’s plans are for the entire building, though an expansion would not be out of the question considering the proliferation of dispensaries around L.A.
Just days after VRC exited the building, MedMen put out a press release Feb. 7 that stated it had closed the sale of three properties, including the Lincoln Boulevard space, to Treehouse Estate Investment Trust with net proceeds of $18.4 million that will go toward “accretive growth opportunities." Per the company website, MedMen operates 19 licensed locations in California, New York, Nevada, Florida and Arizona. Six of those storefronts are in Los Angeles.
Reached by THR, MedMen senior vp corporate communications Daniel Yi declined to elaborate. “MedMen does not comment on or discuss future business plans. Regarding the Venice Recovery Center, MedMen assisted the organization with its relocation, including a donation to help cover costs,” Yi tells THR.
Christensen confirms the donation but declined to disclose a dollar figure, saying only that it was “significant” for a small, volunteer-run nonprofit which operates without a budget or any reserves. “It helped immensely. Without MedMen, it would have been almost impossible for us to move. This may be surprising, but I’ve got nothing but good things to say about MedMen,” he adds.
Helping to spread positivity is the fact that the sober folks who used VRC as a gathering place have a new home. Meetings have moved to Westminster Senior Center at 1234 Pacific Ave. in Venice, which is adjacent to a dog park. Still, even with a new address, others are mourning the end of an era while pointing out that the proliferation of cannabis storefronts is a sign of the times as many retail companies are having a more difficult time in the brick-and-mortar business. The same cannot be said of cannabis companies, especially in California where the market is expected to exceed $5.1 billion in 2019.
Cash aside, the tenant transition back on Lincoln Boulevard has been far less smooth for MedMen. Just days after VRC vacated the premises, the MedMen store was burglarized in a “smash and grab” orchestrated by multiple suspects just after 3 a.m. on Feb. 7. According to a report, one suspect was later nabbed by police.
"It was not us," joked one sober VRC member.
Christensen says moving forward, he has the same hopes for both VRC and MedMen no matter what happens to the old building. “Sobriety is not the only thing that helps people,” he says. “I’m hoping that MedMen helps people, too. While we want to do positive things for the recovery community in Venice, I hope they do the same for the people that they help. There’s never enough people helping people.”
A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.