The fate of the historic Tastee Diner in Laurel, Md., will likely be decided in late January after a decision of whether to allow approval for the site to turn into a medical-marijuana dispensary has been postponed.
The Laurel Board of Appeals had been expected to hear the case of Pure Hana Synergy, the potential buyers of the site, at a Dec. 20 meeting. But representatives of Pure Hana asked for more time to prepare their case after their application for a pot facility at the diner site on Washington Boulevard was denied earlier this month by the Laurel Planning Commission.
The appeals board is expected to hear the case Jan. 24.
Local activists, diner enthusiasts and preservationists had successfully fought for a month to try to save the old trolley car-like building that the diner is located in by getting it moved to another spot on Laurel’s Main Street.
Many of them had testified at a public hearing that they weren’t against a pot dispensary coming to the site but wanted to save the diner’s stainless steel exterior, which was made in the 1950s by Comac, a manufacturer. They argued that there are only a handful of Comac-made diners left in the United States.
But the city’s mayor had said he wasn’t interested in seeing the diner moved to another site on Main Street. And the diner’s longtime owner, Gene Wilkes, who also has two other diners in Silver Spring and Bethesda, has said he had the property up for sale for several years.
Pure Hana had promised to save parts of the diner’s structure and follow the state’s strict guidelines for dispensing medical marijuana.
Laurel, with a population of about 25,000, is about 20 miles northeast of downtown Washington, in Prince George’s County. The city has worked for decades to revitalize part of Route 1 in the area near the diner.
At a Dec. 11 hearing, the city’s planning commission had voted unanimously against granting the permit to Pure Hana. The five commissioners had noted that there are already two medical-marijuana dispensaries nearby — one in neighboring Howard County and another set to open soon in Laurel.
The commissioners had gone against the recommendation of city staff, which had urged approval of a special exception for the dispensary.
It was a victory right before the holidays and temporary reprieve for the diner, its roughly 30 longtime employees and dozens of regular patrons. Locals had collected more than 2,300 signatures in an online petition to save the diner.
At the Dec. 11 hearing, Dawn Turney — a longtime Laurel resident — had testified, “if you close the diner, you’re talking about taking away part of the community and part of its history.
“It’s been a part of the community, and it’s always brought us together.”