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Cleveland Circle merchants, BC and some residents vow to fight bar's conversion into a pot shop

Michael Reardon of Happy Valley Ventures

Reardon shows off plans on screen near the bar at the Brighton Elks.

A company that is opening a medical-marijuana dispensary in East Boston said it has a purchase-and-sale agreement to buy BC dive Mary Ann's on Beacon Street and rebuild the decrepit place into a contemporary pot shop serving both recreational and medical marijuana users.

Not so fast, a number of people warned Happy Valley Ventures of Massachusetts at a meeting of the Brighton Allston Improvement Association Wednesday night, at which they raised the specter of hordes of pot-seeking BC students descending on the shop and scaring off families from Cleveland Circle.

George Haivanis, owner of Reservoir Wines and Liquors, said he and other merchants have spent long years working to improve Cleveland Circle and they're not about to let a pot shop ruin that. "Cleveland Circle is a place for families to come with kids to walk and eat," and swim in the DCR pool, not a place for people to load up on pot, he said.

He gave BAIA officials letters from ten Cleveland Circle merchants also opposed to the proposal - and said more of them would have attended the meeting had they not heard about the agenda at the last minute. Turning to Happy Valley officials and their lawyer, he warned, "We're not going away."

Before it can open, Happy Valley would need to win a letter of "non opposition" from the City Council and approval from both state marijuana regulators and the Boston zoning board.

Happy Valley COO and founder Michael Reardon and two other Happy Valley officials said their goal is to create a facility similar to a doctor's office or pharmacy, where customers would have to show ID at four separate points before being allowed to walk out with any marijuana products. Recreational users would be limited to an ounce of "flower" or 8 grams of marijuana concentrate - at prices high enough to discourage them from trying to re-sell it on the street.

Reardon and Happy Valley attorney Jeff Drago said the store would be a vast improvement over Mary Ann's - it would close at 9 p.m. rather than 2 a.m. and residents would have one fewer local source of loud students infused with cheap drinks. It would have a capacity of 47 people at a time - eight of them employees - unlike Mary Ann's, which has a licensed capacity of 200. The company says it would use both security guards and cameras to ensure customers did not loiter in the area.

And, they said, the facility would have a large waiting room - so that customers would be inside rather than queuing up outside. That alone was a must for association Vice President Anabela Gomes, who pointed to the lines stretching along Rte. 9 outside a dispensary in Brookline Village. Reardon also reassured her the signage would be low-key and that even if he wanted to, he couldn't hire what she called "people dressed up like pot leaves" waving people in, because, unlike in anything-goes California, that's illegal in Massachusetts.

Proposed waiting room - note absence of sticky floors:

Proposed waiting room

But all the reassurances were not enough for Bill Mills, director of community affairs at Boston College, who said a pot shop within an easy walk of 9,200 BC students is just not a good idea, especially in an area on the upswing - just look, he said, at the new hotel and senior apartments nearing completion on Chestnut Hill Avenue. A pot shop "is just not an improvement to the area," he said.

He added that the only reason that Bill Evans, BC's police chief and former Boston police commissioner, did not attend was because of a prior commitment in Newton. An officer from BPD's District D-14 did attend and said the department opposes a marijuana shop in Cleveland Circle.

Mills even questioned whether Mary Ann's was really so bad. Sure, it pissed the neighborhood off for several decades, but the bar shaped up after it was chewed out by the Boston Licensing Board three years ago and had turned into a good, if shabby, neighbor, he said.

If it can win approval, Happy Valley would buy the building from a group headed by principals at City Realty - which in turn had purchased the bar, and some other Boston dives - earlier this year.

At a licensing-board hearing in July, the group said it planned to keep Mary Ann's pretty much the same. But at tonight's BAIA meeting, a City Realty official said his bosses readily agreed to the proposed Happy Valley deal because "we're developers" who aren't really in the business of running bars.

The proposal did have a couple of supporters, who agreed that it would represent a major enhancement to the area over Mary Ann's, that area students in pursuit of pot are already getting it and that Boston residents voted overwhelmingly to legalize marijuana. One resident, though, disputed that, saying legalization won only because large numbers of students registered to vote specifically for marijuana.



What is the difference between a line of BC kids waiting to get into Mary Ann's and a line of BC kids waiting to get into a dispensary? None of the points these pearl clutchers raised make any sense.

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The ones leaving the dispensary won't be puking on their way out.

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Not just cleaner, but better for Cleveland Circle business!

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Actually POT can cause puking.

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I wanted to give my experience of visiting a recreational shop in Colorado just so people can understand and make up their minds.
I went on a Tuesday mid afternoon and it was pretty crowded, as in had to wait for a parking spot. You walk in, show your ID, which is scanned and you are given a number. You then wait in a lobby where they have a price list and description of the products. You are then called into a room with a "bud tender" where he checks your ID again and discusses your purchase. He asks about your likes and how you want to feel. He also asks about whether you want edibles, oil or smokeable marijuana. You then exit this room and pay in a third room where they again check your ID and receipt. They then explain the laws about how to transport it and where you can consume your purchase.
It was a real mix of people. There were groups of older couples, there were people on dates, there were construction workers getting off work. I have worked in a liquor store and it I guess it was fairly similar to that vibe. I was surprised that it seemed to be an older crowd than I would have thought.

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I love it when liquor and drug stores are opposed to marijuana stores. Especially funny as the presenter is photographed under a sign advertising the Elks' Beer Specials.

Also to note it is not "within an easy walk of 9,200 BC students" as 60-75% of them are not eligible to purchase marijuana at said store. And those who can enter the store are entitled to do so.

Also that hotel/apartment building is hardly a boon to Cleveland Circle as the traffic on Chestnut Hill Ave is now un-navigable and the hotel part hasn't even opened yet, just the residences.

Anyhow, a single story building at the Mary Ann's location is a waste. It should be razed for a new building with condos above a retail dispensary on the ground floor.

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The AC Hotel is open though...

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So much self-interested opposition from that liquor outlet:

George Haivanis, owner of Reservoir Wines and Liquors, said he and other merchants have spent long years working to improve Cleveland Circle and they're not about to let a pot shop ruin that. "Cleveland Circle is a place for families to come with kids to walk and eat,"

He neglected to add, "Our customer base of alcoholics and boozers has done so much to improve the neighborhood, it's incredible. Having the dive bar here just adds to the effort. Our drinkers should not have to be exposed to happy stoners while they are trying to associate with their fellow angry, stumbling drunks."

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have the idea to ask this DB if his store sold nips?
Liquor store owner obstructing pot shop under the guise of "BUT FAMILIES" is the height of hypocrisy!
Just a side note: What are families doing in Cleveland Circle exactly? Aside from boarding a train? The movie theater is gone. The Applebees is gone. There is a couple bars and a liquor store...VERY family oriented. Um, there's a Starbucks and a DUNKIN' for when little Billy and Sally need their legal addictive stimulants.Lets see, OH EAGLES DELI I suppose, Or Pino's Pizza? There's like, ten banks a CVS, some shitty Mexican food, 3 convenience stores, some hair and nail salons, why it's practically DISNEY WORLD down there.
I get that you could take the kids to the pool or to walk around the reservoir, but those are across Chestnut Hill Ave basically in BC-land.
Also as far as the BC kids go, I'd just like to point out THEY CAN ALREADY GET POT, LIKELY WITHOUT LEAVING CAMPUS, OR EVEN THEIR DORMS, you freakin' idiots. The black market will readily serve the 80% of the kids who CAN'T walk into this new establishment, and at cheaper prices I might add. I'd also hate to break it to these pearl clutchers/LITERAL POISON DEALERS that cookies, candies, oils, and even ice cream containing pot can be had anywhere within Boston limits within an hour of having such a craving. It's here. It's been here. Do you want to collect taxes from it or not?
But....you'd rather have a bar there that closes at 2am?

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The ice cream pot. Asking for a friend. :-o

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CRIMINAL DEALER WHO PAYS NO TAXES. Someone around town is making it, I have had it on several occasions. It's not bad either....

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But I think a nice renovated MaryAnns would do much better if someone put the time and effort into it.

But then again, what do I know. The old Ground Round (then Applebees) wasn't killing it after a while either.

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but this wouldn't be a café. People would be purchasing the product, then be obligated to consume the product elsewhere. Just like the customers of the booze shop.

And if the age of purchase is set at 21, most BC students wouldn't be eligible to enter the premises to begin with.

And the prices are going to be higher than what it costs to get weed in the dorm anyway.

I'm of the mind that a one-story building on this lot is a waste, but the arguments against the conversion of this business to a pot shop are just plain stupid.

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28 grams of flower or 89 grams of concentrate? no way. that cant be right.

if it is i'm gonna take a bath in the distillate.

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One ounce of flower and 8 grams of concentrate.

This is what happens when you've sat through a 3 1/2-hour meeting, which also included other items and heated discussion, including one in which one resident charged that another resident who wanted to extend his attic into a full third floor would be "destroying the neighborhood," and you're sitting in the Brighton IHOP writing your story and you obviously know little about marijuana and you can't read your own writing, which, in the light of a new day, I can now see included me writing a "g" next to an "8," rather than the "9" I took it to mean in the IHOP.

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3 1/2 hours of pearl clutching and hypocrisy?! No wonder you couldn’t see straight. Thanks for taking one for the team. In all honesty appreciate your dedication to providing news no one else cares to report.

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"Cleveland Circle is a place for families to come with kids to walk and eat," I've lived in Cleveland Circle for over 25 years and it's not Coolidge Corner. There are mainly people begging for money and college students along that single strip of businesses. The kids who use the pool take the bus in and out and maybe go to 7-11. And the suburban hockey families only park there to use the rink and take up resident spaces at night. There are no families traipsing about on the one block of sidewalk. Obviously, the older legal drug peddler doesn't want the competition from the new legal drug peddler.

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Hasn't at least one BC student stumbled out of Mary Ann's and drowned in the reservoir?

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The NIMBYs of Cleveland Circle have a real conundrum here. On the one hand, they hate Mary Ann's, college students, and any development in general. On the other hand, they don't understand how highly regulated and secure a marijuana facility is so they probably think this is a smoke shop that will attract "the wrong people." Their instinct is to always oppose but what do they do here???

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Right, they only turned out to vote for weed.

I recall the 2016 campaign very well and as far as I can recall there were no other controversial or galvanizing issues that would have caused people to come out and vote.

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Maybe George Haivanis could be confinced if the proposed customer-concealing waiting room were as large as the one he provides for the students who line up to buy kegs at Reservoir Wines and Liquors.

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One resident, though, disputed that, saying legalization won only because large numbers of students registered to vote specifically for marijuana.

“The only reason weed was legalized is that enough people voted for it!”

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So Having been to a previous BAIC meeting about a dispensary, the one on North Beacon next to the Dunks, this is about how I expected it to go.

The chair is terrified of people standing in lines outside the pot shop, and that it will lead to to much traffic and what not. She also is clearly against anything of the like.

The best comment from that session was from a neighbor who said "If you are concerned about lines I had definitely seen lines at the liquor store right down the street at opening time"

I was also told by the D14 Community Officer that the Boston Police official position is that they are against ANY dispensary and ANY new Bar or Liquor Store when I mentioned the responses were very hypocritical given how much they had lauded a previous speaker, an owner of 3 bars in Brighton Center.

There were large crowds conflating opiates to cannabis and typical NIMBY crap.

I for one would have no issue buying donuts with my two small children at the Dunks next door to a dispensary (I said as much on the mic)

I didn't have the energy to go to this one. Also, I think the other location, at Market and North Beacon was better, given that its currently an empty space with transport AND parking rather than an existing business.

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if most of these people are astroturfers. I am going to make it a point to go to one of these hearings if I can figure out where one will be held in far enough advance (I'm sure they are conveniently scheduled for regular working hours). I will gladly hold up my ID with my Boston address listed on it and demand to see others' validated address before we are forced to listen to this drivel.
The Governor, Mayor, Police commissioner, AD, etc were all against legalization, medical, and decriminalization. Each one of those things passed with flying colors each and every time it was put to a vote, it wasn't even close.The will of the people is actively being suppressed by moneyed interests.
Now they appoint a bunch of anti-pot people to the Cannabis commission, and stack hearings full of these "neighbors" protesting the pot shops in every god-damned neighborhood they are proposed in. I had no idea the anti-pot movement was so strong, imagine if we had included growing industrial hemp into these ballot questions. My god the lumberjacks would be out in force!
Even if you don't use MJ or aren't comfortable with pot shops and voted against legalization you should be shouting these people down in the name of democracy for god's sake!

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As somebody who's attended his share of BAIA meetings, I know most of the people who spoke are regulars, the sort of folks who always show up at neighborhood meetings like this to spend several hours commenting on what's going on in the neighborhood. There was no influx of fresh-faced imposters bused in from Crankytown, MA (and besides, who would pay for the bus?).

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So I agree with Adam here, with my limited experience at the BAIA. In some people's mind I was the interloper, as a new person who showed up to say I like the idea of a pop shop, and also to to see what the plans were for a few condo conversions. This despite living in Brighton for 10 years.

I saw a number of neighbors and people who I have interacted with at things like the Oak Square farmers market who seemed know the other people speaking.

The issue is that the kinds of people who show up at these events for the most part are locals who are 1. Busy Bodies 2. Upset about something on the agenda or 3. Civic Minded with Free Time.

All three groups tend to run older, more conservative and whiter than the neighborhood in general. And do not have a progressive view on Cannabis, most are stuck in the "Just Say No" world.

I think that for the most part, the younger populace of the area are not aware of the meeting, and it is not a very welcoming crowd for "young people" (I'm 35 and I was likely the youngest person at the meeting I went to other than the people who worked for politicians)

Further even those who had heard about it, its a commitment, 3.5 hours of local drama during what is normally Dinner or Family or Bed Time or "Free Time" for many people.

I would disagree with Adam however, there were two buses from Crankytown, USA, and they are the 57 and the 86.

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-A Catholic (Jesuit) college

Yeah, I trust the judgment of cops and Catholics. There's two entities that have never done anything to erode public confidence. Oh no, not at all.

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I lived in that immediate area for the last 4 years... First, what better place to have a pot shop than a spot within walking distance of 3 different Green Line Branches to alleviate all that dreaded traffic? Second, its next to a brand new over 55 development- they're biggest market! Also, Maryanne's is a dump and anything is an upgrade over that place. And even assuming all the pot customers will be consuming it in the immediate area (they won't be) who would be more likely to buy food at Eagles Deli, Pino's Pizza, and whatever else is down there now? Yeah Cleveland circle is on the up and up, just ask the homeless panhandlers outside Reservoir Wines and Liquors. The shops will open.. and they'll be a huge success and cause no problems and in 5 years no one will give a second thought to this, especially once the tax dollars start rolling in. If you're worried about college students having access to pot shops than you should have never legalized it in the first place because unless you ban the shops in all of Eastern Massachusetts, no matter what 250,000 college students can easily access it if they want. I all I want to do is be able to buy pot for my own personal use in my own home and be left alone- and pay taxes! Anything selling liquor, cigarettes or coffee has no leg to stand on- hypocrites!

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Of course the liquor store owner is against cannabis dispensary. Cuts into his business.
BC complaint is he'd rather have a bar than a dispensary. Weak.

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When I attended BC, MaryAnn's was The Reservoir Cafe. Vodka was available (at obscene prices) on Sundays"for medicinal use only" from the Pharmacy across the Circle. I'm always amused by young people convinced that they're the first ones to have a good idea.

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IIRC liquor sales declined by 25% when cannabis shops opened in Colorado and Washington State. There was also a similar 25% decline in opiate deaths after a three year period.

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While I can empathize with the residents of Cleveland Circle, bottom line is, citizens voted, "Yes" in 2016 to approve legal sales of recreational marijuana.

More relevant, 80% of residents in that specific neighborhood of Boston voted, "Yes" on election day, 2016.

Ward 21 Precinct 14: YES: 79%; NO: 20%

That's a higher percentage of "Yes" votes than in other precincts - most were between 55-65% YES and 40-55% NO.

Sounds as though many residents in that neighborhood would be just fine with a dispensary.

Voting closed 8