The Boston Licensing Board could decide Thursday whether to punish China Pearl, 9 Tyler St., for what was promoted as a 4/20 dinner at which guests could enjoy roasted pig garnished with their choice of THC or CBD oil.
Boston licensing officials say they warned potrepreneurial caterer Sam Kanter twice, in February and on April 19, not to go through with the event on the restaurant's third floor, which they said was advertised on Instagram. The evening, meant to honor the Chinese Year of the Pig, also got an editorial push by Boston Magazine - although without a mention of the specific location, because Kanter doesn't actually advertise locations and only tells people who have paid to get on her mailing list where to go shortly before the event.
The state currently does not allow pot-infused dining, although the state Cannabis Control Commission last week voted to begin drafting regulations that could lead to marijuana cafes.
BPD Sgt. Det. William Gallagher told the licensing board at a hearing this morning that at 7:37 p.m. on April 20, he walked up to the third floor of the restaurant and found a serving station with a chef carving off slabs of pig and then letting diners decide just how much of a tincture to apply to it. He issued the restaurant a citation for "premise allowing an illegality to take place."
Restaurant manager Brian Moy said that, as far as he knew, the tincture was limited to CBD, which is available at smoke shops across the state, and that no THC, which is the cannabinoid that gets people high, was used. "To our understanding, it was all CBD," doled out in 5-mg drops, he said.
But he and his sister Patricia, also a manager, and on duty in the restaurant's first floor that night, acknowledged they had no direct control over Kanter's event and that they had been trying to help her get her business off the ground.
Although Kanter ran the event, the Moys are the ones facing possible sanctions, which could range from a simple warning to having their restaurant shut for a set number of days, because they own the food and liquor licenses and so are legally responsible for whatever happens in the restaurant.
Moy said China Pearl actually took a loss on the event, for which he said 30 to 40 diners paid $135 each, with most of that going to Kanter. He said the restaurant itself sold 16 or 17 beers and a total of about one and a half bottles of wine.
Kanter also attended the hearing, but said nothing when board member Liam Curran asked the Moys about the use of THC.
Brian Moy said he contacted the licensing board three or four times, starting last spring, to ask about the legality of such an event and that he always got "somewhat vague and not concrete" answers - like check with the state - from whoever answered the board's phones.
He said he also asked a couple of lawyers and pot consultants, he knew and they thought he'd be OK; he acknowledged the discussions were casual and that he did not actually hire a lawyer to research the issue.
Board Chairwoman Kathleen Joyce seemed surprised that Moy would get such answers from her staff. But she said there's no question that Kanter should have known better - because the board very specifically warned her against holding her canaibis dinner series" in Boston.
In addition to the specific warnings to Kanter, the board recently sent a more general advisory to restaurant owners in the city not to serve anything laced with marijuana products.