Canada’s first high-end cannabis lounge opens in Toronto early 2020

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Shauna Levy, former Design Exchange CEO and president, is bringing her design experience to Toronto’s first high-end cannabis lounge.

The lounge, byMinistry, the first major project from MoCanna, a Canadian cannabis company, is an 8,000-sq.-ft. space slated to open at 850 Adelaide St. W., Toronto in early 2020, byMinistry CEO Levy told The GrowthOp.

Levy was the president and CEO of the arts and design hub, the Design Exchange, for seven years. She was also the founder of EDIT (Expo for Design, Innovation and Technology), a festival held in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme. The festival showcased how design can make the world a better place and counted Bruce Mau, David Suzuki and Richard Florida as guests.

byMinistry founder and chairman, Lorne Gertner, co-founder of Tokyo Smoke, asked Levy to join the cannabis lounge venture after he saw her work with EDIT, Levy says. Gertner was on the board of directors for The Design Exchange at the time.

Levy saw the opportunity as a way to bring her design background to the cannabis industry.

“We have an opportunity to design this industry in a correct way, a positive way, a safe way from the very beginning,” Levy says.

Outside of building with the words 'What's Normal Anyway' painted on it

The future home of byMinistry Toronto has a mural, ‘What’s Normal Anyway’ by artist Ben Johnston, painted on the front at 850 Adelaide St. W. byMinistry

Levy snagged Ashley McKenzie-Barnes, curator for Nuit Blanche Toronto 2019, to create the cultural experiences for the flagship byMinistry. The cultural experiences will be in one of three spaces. There will also be a lounge to consume food and beverages; and a space for cooking classes, workshops and guest chefs.

As for the look of the new lounge, the name of the architect is being kept under wraps until the fall, but the person is known for cultural buildings and venues, Levy adds.

“It will be pretty phenomenal from an architectural perspective,” Levy says.

Shauna Levy is the CEO of byMinistry. / Photo courtesy of Stacklab; shot by Rajeshta Julatum

Shauna Levy is the CEO of byMinistry. / Photo courtesy of Stacklab; shot by Rajeshta Julatum Photo courtesy of Stacklab; shot by Rajeshta Julatum

The lounge will not be a place to smoke cannabis, she adds. The Smoke-Free Ontario Act doesn’t permit indoor smoking and byMinistry will comply with cannabis regulations–and that includes edibles.

“Until it is actually legal to serve cannabis-infused beverages and food, the focus will be on adaptogens (healing herbs) and plant-forward (plant-based) food items,” Levy says.

The lounge will focus on the next evolution of cannabis culture–a normalized, safe and healthy experience, Levy says.

“For me, a cannabis experience isn’t standing and smoking a joint. That is just not who I am. But if you gave me a space designed by one of the best architects in the world, people serving food by world-celebrated chefs and drinks by celebrated mixologists with fantastic music–that would be my cannabis experience,” Levy says.

In the press release, Gertner said byMinistry would be a “sophisticated space where advocates and supporters of cannabis normalization and leading a plant-based lifestyle can cohabit seamlessly with the culinary, design, arts and wellness worlds.”

“byMinistry is designed for the open-minded, who want to engage in a refined and normalized existence with cannabis. We are committed to bringing an elevated culture-focused environment that shifts perceptions, removes taboo and uplifts the culture,” Gertner said.

The name byMinistry is inspired by the Ministry of Sound in London, England–a huge nightclub, recording studio and fitness club, known as an authority on music, Levy says. byMinistry aims to do the same in the world of cannabis, and open multiple locations across Canada and the U.S., Levy adds.

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