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Proposal for Jacob Wirth marijuana dispensary gets public airing

The new look of Jacob Wirth

Royalty's vision of a cannabis shop where Jacob Wirth is now.

A marijuana entrepreneur tried to convince skeptical Chinatown residents tonight that turning the decaying former Jacob Wirth restaurant into a state-of-the-art cannabis concern would benefit local groups, give jobs to people harmed by the war on drugs and save a national landmark.

In an online meeting, Andrea Pearce, owner of Royalty Group, LLC, outlined her plans to turn the restaurant floor of 31-39 Stuart St. into a roughly 3,740-square foot dispensary selling everything from "flour" to marijuana-laced baked goods, tinctures, vape cannisters and other products. She said she would move her corporate offices, now in the same building as the Royale nightclub on Tremont Street, into the building's upper two floors.

The restaurant closed in 2018 due to water damage from efforts to knock down a fire on one of the floors above it. Pearce said she has a letter of intent to buy the building that is based on her winning city and state approval for her proposed shop, although she added she would seek to bring in an investor willing to help renovate the decaying building to its historic specifications in exchange for a cut of the proceeds from the marijuana sales.

Inside rendering (no piano for singalongs, though):

Inside the proposed shop

Pearce said she has agreements with historical consultants to ensure that any work done to the building preserves the old Jacob Wirth building, built in the 1860s for Jacob Wirth himself. The dispensary would have a "history timeline wall" inside about Wirth and his restaurant, she said, adding the name of the dispensary would be JW Tree Star - combining the brand name of her retail operations with an homage to Wirth.

Pearce said if she doesn't win approval, she doubts anybody will pay to fix up the building, because nobody's willing to invest without some guarantee of return - of the sort her cannabis concern could provide. "The building will probably stay empty and it will not be restored and who knows what will happen to it."

The meeting did not get off to a good start because the city Office of Neighborhood Services uses WebEx for its online meetings, rather than Zoom. City Councilor Ed Flynn, who represents Chinatown, said that as soon as the 6 p.m. meeting began, he started getting complaints from Chinese-speaking residents that they could not figure out how to use the less common platform and participate. "That's discouraging to me as their elected official," he said. "I have to make sure their voices are heard."

Pearce agreed to have another community meeting on Zoom, although no date was set. Pearce cannot get a hearing before the Boston Cannabis Board without certification from the city Office of Neighborhood Services that she has completed required neighborhood outreach. In addition to that board, she will also need the approval of the Zoning Board of Appeal and the state Cannabis Control Commission.

If Pearce gets to the zoning board, she will need to seek a variance because the proposed shop is within a half mile of the existing Patriot Care dispensary on Milk Street downtown. Because of that, the Downtown Business Improvement District says it opposes the proposed Stuart Street location.

Pearce said the Jacob Wirth building is ideal for her business because it's in an area that already has numerous regulated businesses, such as bars and nightclubs, and which gets a lot of foot traffic. She estimated 80% of the store's business would be people on foot. She added the space inside is large enough for a queuing area that would mean no people waiting in line outside.

But the Chinatown residents who did make it into the meeting said the fact that the location is in a dense residential neighborhood, one that has suffered tremendously in the past from official neglect and which today has problems with drug and alcohol abusers, is reason enough for them to oppose the proposal.

The dispensary site is not just in an area of bars, restaurants and clubs, "it is in a neighborhood," Nancy Lo said.

"The Chinatown neighborhood has had to contend with all kinds of vices and safety issues due to the legacy of the Combat Zone and the night clubs in the area," resident Helen Wong said in the meeting's group chat. "Chinatown is a residential neighborhood with a huge population of seniors and children -- there are NO benefits of having a recreational cannabis business in this area. As a parent of the local elementary school and a director of a community center that serves youth, I am unequivocally opposed to this proposal."

Pearce said she gets that Chinatown is more than just a collection of bars, clubs and restaurants, and her security director said he will do what it takes to keep kids out - and people from consuming the store's products openly in the streets of Chinatown. But Pearce added that Chinatown residents live "in a metropolitan city where everything colocates together."

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Comments

Why is it that all of these high-prices computer renderings of new construction look more like they were generated in the late 90s with Pentium-era processors instead of 2021? Is contemporary design software that poor?

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Voting closed 21

"Kids with their facepads and iBoxes and whatnot, dont respect their elders andymore and (grumble, grumble)....."

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Voting closed 18

The hard part of computer modelling is that someone has to actually manually add all the little details. Some steps can be automated, but for the most part, better computers don't just automatically make it look better: someone has to actually do the work to make it look better. Since renderings are just a basic illustration mostly just to show to bureaucrats and the like it doesn't have to look that good, so just plugging your architectural model into some generic representation of the neighborhood is good enough. And with CGI you can generate shots from different angles quite easily, which is ultimately more important than having the bricks actually look like bricks.

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Voting closed 20

the fact that every NIMBY resident of Chinatown has to be aware that restaurants have been serving "cold tea' after hours for decades in their neighborhood..

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Voting closed 28

Damn you're cool man, how did you figure out the thing about the cold tea!?!? crazy

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Voting closed 27

Sounds like the real issue here is that the ABCC hasn't been doing their job.

Maybe the State should address this by showing it can control the sale of after-hours booze.. You make it sound like you expect a vigilante group of locals walking restaurant to restaurant with bats at 3am..

(seriously, how many restaurants in Chinatown are still open past 2am these days anyway?)

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Voting closed 15

I'm still sad that Jacob Wirth closed. It was a great place to have a beer and get that Old-Fashioned Saloon vibe. I don't think there's anything like it in Boston anymore. Frankly I agree with Pearce. The only alternative I can see is someone tearing the place down and putting up even more condos instead.

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Voting closed 45

The smell of the smoke is noxious, even in the open air, and nobody should have to put up with it. Especially considering that the chemical compounds that make the smell have nothing to do with the potency or the intoxication effects. Science could remove the smell with no drawbacks except to piss off self-styled connoisseurs.

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Voting closed 31

Yup, and I'll be here waiting for cars to be banned from the roads until they can figure out how to get rid of those pesky, noxious, poisonous odors and emissions. Cars pollute the environment and smell up the city streets, and nobody should have to deal with it!

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Voting closed 19

Cars haven't smelled since catalytic converters were mandated.

Most diesel trucks smell terrible. Even some tiny two-stroke scooters can be smelled for blocks. Stricter regulations for vehicles other than cars can't come fast enough.

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Voting closed 13

Same with ciggies and the stench of alcohol?

I don't know where you all live where the "smell of pot is everywhere."

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Voting closed 22

We don’t need any more smoke shops.
Even if the offensive smell is toned done, smoke is still a killer. No need for anyone to smoke anything when smokefree methods are available. Especially when our laws encourage it.

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Voting closed 14

we should hold up constructing any new corner stores that might sell cigarettes or any department stores that might sell perfume. It's not a cigar bar - the store itself isn't going to be producing smoke.

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Voting closed 19

You mean that totally great smell that doesn't muck you up like second hand cigarette smoke does? It's just a matter of perspective and it's fine that you don't like it, but the whole "I don't want marijuana dispensaries because of the smell" is such a cop-out complaint especially if you consider that rolling by someplace like NETA in Brookline isn't descending into some cartoonishly aromatic smog cloud because people don't tear their bags open and rip a fat cloud the moment they get their hands on their bud.

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Voting closed 22

The smoke Was the first thing that ever triggered a serious asthma attack for me - just in a dorm corridor, I've never smoked myself.

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Voting closed 12

Did I miss something? I don't believe they're allowing smoking on site at this proposed place...

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Voting closed 23

In fact, state law prohibits the consumption of the product at the store. The issue raised by Chinatown residents was that customers would just walk a couple blocks away and consume it on the street.

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Voting closed 19

I don't buy this. One comes across a multitude of unpleasant smells moving around a city. Bus exhaust doesn't smell very nice but I don't spend any time thinking about it.

I think this is more the old taboo about Marijuana/smoking being bad then the smell actually being a problem.

Your reaction is not matching the size of the problem.

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Voting closed 20

A quintessential Massachusetts position: why leave something alone that works perfectly fine as-is, when we can instead add some pointless technology to quadruple the price and raise high barriers for entry?

Dog poop is gross, too. Let's get MIT working on a poopless dog and ban all other dogs from the city.

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Voting closed 21

The dispensaries don't smell like anything and no one is allowed to smoke anywhere near them, I get that people come here just to shoot the shit.

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Voting closed 19

You think you can control smoking in Boston by selling smokable tobacco and marijuana and then saying don’t smoke it??

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Voting closed 17

weed is legal, you are not doing to change that by cleverly changing dispensary regulations

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Voting closed 19

Smoking is another issue altogether. It’s not legal in fewer and fewer places. Regulations have changed that. For the good. Enforcement is needed.

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Voting closed 12

to be shut down? There's way more of them than there are pot shops.

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Voting closed 18

For a long time.

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Voting closed 13

I must have missed the "citizens against bodegas" protests. I'll keep an eye out.

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Voting closed 17

Congratulations!

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Voting closed 12

Way to shift the goalposts.

Sounds like that's what you did when you pivoted this from a discussion about not allowing a marijuana dispensary from selling smokables, because you don't want people smoking it outside, which they can't legally do. It seems reasonable to ask why you're not looking to shut down the good old tobacco-selling corner store, which is selling a product that people CAN legally smoke outside, if smoke is what's at issue for you.

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Voting closed 22

.. do you. Try again

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Voting closed 11

you are looking to shut down businesses that sell tobacco.

But you're not looking to shut down bodegas, even though they sell tobacco products?

So..what are you actually looking to do here, other than complain on the Internet?

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Voting closed 22

.... just like in pharmacies and supermarkets with pharmacies.

Did I really have to spell it out ?
Maybe smoke less pot and cigarettes and your comprehension skills will improve.

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Voting closed 13

Did I really have to spell it out ?

Given that all your antecedents were highly ambiguous, that tobacco sales have always been legal in this country and there is no well known movement to change that, yeah? It's not the first connection that any reasonable person would jump to.

Maybe smoke less pot and cigarettes and your comprehension skills will improve.

It's not our comprehension skills, it's your shitty communication skills. In the relatively short time you've been on uhub, you've really established yourself as a cranky, cantankerous jerk who blames his poor communication skills on everyone around him, but this may be the cherry on the sundae. Congrats, I guess?

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Voting closed 19

Does anyone know what is happening with all of the "stuff" leftover from Jacob Wirth's? Last time I walked by, it looked like it was all still in there. I loved that place so much, it would be nice to have a piece of it in my home

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Voting closed 18

Thanks, Adam. Love their idea of incorporating a social history a Jacob Wirth into the dispensary. Wish more retailers did that in their historic buildings.

Oh, and in the second paragraph, I think you mean "flower," aka buds.

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Voting closed 17

I was wondering if "flour" was a new way of making magic brownies and why I'd never heard of it.

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Voting closed 17

Why does the interior have to be international pot store chic instead of leaving the interior intact? Or is it already destroyed?

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Voting closed 20

... adaptations then I’m even more opposed to this use.

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Voting closed 19

The floor was already pretty janky before the fire. A few tons of water probably made it worse. At least they seem to be leaving the beams in the ceiling.

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Voting closed 19

That's ridiculous.

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Voting closed 14

The building (exterior) is a Boston Landmark. It has to be renovated to their standards. So the developer isn't doing anything out of the goodness of their hearts. That said, it seems like a good use for the location if another bar/restaurant can't make it. And, as others have pointed out, if we ever have coffee shops for cannibis, this would be a great place for one.

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Voting closed 18