Observer: Time to talk about the Village

By John Pixley
Don’t say I didn’t say so. In about five years, there will be a store in Upland. Or Pomona. Or Ontario. Just not in Claremont. But it will be called the Claremont Green Stop.

Something like that. If not the Claremont Dispensary. Or the Claremont Marijuana Dispensary.
Just like what happened 20 years ago or so, when someone wanted to open a tattoo parlor in Claremont – in the Village, specifically. After weeks of back-and-forth with the city council, the plan was denied. A few years later, the Claremont Tattoo Studio opened – in Rancho Cucamonga.

Never mind that, even at that time, there were plenty of people going around Claremont, around the Village, sporting tattoos. Heck, there were guys working at Some Crust bakery, a block down the street from the proposed site of the tattoo parlor, with tattoos covering a good part of their arms and legs.

The city did eventually allow tattoo parlors within its borders. But just barely, only in certain industrial-type corners. Certainly not in the Village. I don’t know of any establishments that have taken the city up on its offer. The Claremont Tattoo Studio definitely hasn’t.

As with tattoos, marijuana is more and more commonplace. It is now legal in California, not only for medicinal use but also for recreational use. And please don’t tell me that there aren’t folks in Claremont who partake of the herb.

But what about there being a marijuana dispensary – a pot shop – in Claremont? Is this even a possibility?

This is what I was wondering before and, yes, after attending a meeting recently. The meeting was one of two identical ones on Zoom quietly – too quietly, I would say – presented by the city on the vague topic of “cannabis in Claremont.” I was wondering what this was about so tuned in to find out.

It turned out the meeting was basically about opening a marijuana dispensary in Claremont and how it could be done. The featured speaker was an older man named David MacPearson, who certainly didn’t look like a wild-eyed pot-head advocating pot shops. He presented lots of data, and his primary message was that marijuana dispensaries are becoming a fact of life, can be a tremendous revenue generator for municipalities and can, with the will to do so and with careful planning, be safely and even tastefully included in Claremont.

The question is if we in Claremont have the will and even want to bother with the careful planning.

I have to wonder if we do.

I don’t know if a pot shop would work in the Village. Or if a dispensary should be in Claremont, whether the Village or someplace else. But I also don’t know if we should outright dismiss having a marijuana dispensary in Claremont, seeing as how, as presented at the recent meeting, they will be more and more commonplace and can greatly benefit the town in sales tax and can be safely and tastefully included.

I do know that, when it comes to the Village, this is a time to really consider or rethink what we want. As has been noted at length in these pages, the Village is changing. And now is the time to take control of what the change will be.

With the Laemmle Cinemas due to close who knows when, with Rhino Records moving to Montclair, with The Press closed for two years and not looking like it will reopen, the Village is indeed changing. Something is afoot, whether caused by the devastating pandemic or that and other factors – the pandemic was no doubt at least a part, or perhaps the last straw, in this.

There is the feeling that the Village, not to mention Claremont with the recent closing of the Candlelight Pavilion, is losing its soul, the very things, the unique, special places that drew people. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that they are what made Claremont Claremont, but they were a part of what makes this town so attractive.

Take the Laemmle Cinema, part of a chain, yes, but one which is local and manages to have a Claremont feel. Early on in the pandemic, there was a small notice in these pages saying that the theater was up for sale and that this news “stung.” It did indeed sting, so it was quite a relief, when, about a year later, there was a big article saying that the theater was staying, at least for the time being.

This made the news earlier this year that the theater will close soon all the more devastating. Personally, with my increased disability, I’m not up to schlepping to Pasadena, as I used to on a crazily regular basis, to see independent and foreign films before the Claremont 5 opened.

(Claremont didn’t have a movie theater since the 1970s, when the Village Theater, operated by the Mann chain where Harvard Square now is at Harvard and Bonita in the Village, closed.) On the other hand, I’ve gotten used to and actually enjoy watching films streaming or rented on Amazon on my television – which, I know, I know, is blasphemy, cinematically speaking, and is why the local bijou is now closing, since many others are finding the same.

To make the matter even more wrenching, we are told that a restaurant is slated to move into the building. A restaurant. When the Village is all but over-flowing with eateries.

Do we really need another restaurant in the Village? Think of how much better, how much more interesting, how much livelier it would be if another small theater chain or even an independent exhibitor were to move in. If only!

Do we want the Village to be filled with restaurants and little shops that all look the same? Cute, little boutiques that draw the same people? Do we want the Village to look like just another downtown?

It may well be that a marijuana dispensary, no matter how regulated, safe and tasteful, won’t be a good fit in the Village (although one could fit perhaps elsewhere in town). But now is definitely a time to talk about what is a good fit in the Village.


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