A community meeting was held on March 15 regarding a proposed cannabis shop at 1114 Boylston St., the former site of Little Steve’s Pizzeria.
The Boston Cannabis Board provided Cypress Tree with a Host Community Agreement, and the Zoning Board of Appeal approved the request for a conditional use permit on February 23.
Victor Chiang, President of Cypress Tree Management Fenway, LLC, said that the proposal includes the Little Steve’s portion of the building, “as well as the entirety of the second floor.” He said the space totals 6,000 square feet, and there is 1800 square feet of basement space for “back of the house” employee use only.
He said that the location complies with requirements for buffer zones for schools, and explained how the process would work with customers.
Chiang said that IDs will be checked and verified upon entrance using IDScan, and people would then queue indoors. “Our objective is to have no outdoor queuing of any customers,” he said. “There will be security personnel outside the building, and there will be “no impact on sidewalks.”
Chiang showed two renderings of proposed first and second floors where customers would gather. He said that all COVID protocols and guidelines will be followed while still allowing people to queue indoors.
“Should we need additional space, customers will be placed in a virtual queue to receive a text when there is availability,” a slide presented at the meeting reads. “On dates when the Red Sox play or there are concerts at Fenway Park we will increase our security staff to ensure patrons do not block the side walk.”
Chiang also said that as a result of previous concerns from the community about public consumption, Cypress Tree has committed to not selling individual pre-rolls, and signage that states the illegality of consuming marijuana in public will be placed within sight as customers leave the store.
“The location couldn’t be any worse,” said John Bookston of the Fenway Civic Association. He expressed several concerns with the proposal, including that “how do you know when somebody comes in with a valid ID that it’s the ID of that person?”
Chiang said that Cypress Tree’s “objective” is to hire retired officers and other people who are familiar with checking IDs. He said they have the “ability” to “validate your ID as you from your picture ID.”
Tim Horn, president of the Fenway Civic Association, also brought up several concerns, including that there is a summer program for high schoolers at Berklee College of Music, and the underage students would be right around the corner from the proposed shop. He said this makes him “disagree” with the fact that it is compliant with buffer zone regulations.
Chiang said that according to zoning rules, it is compliant, but “we understand that concern.” He reiterated that IDs will be verified both at the door and again before a purchase is made. He said that Cypress Tree will have a “zero tolerance policy” for distributing product to underage individuals, and that employees would be terminated right away if they were found “diverting product” to those under the age of 21.
The presentation stated that “we are the only locally and minority owned applicant siting in and around Fenway,” and that “you will have ownerships’ direct contact information” as a resident of the Fenway. Additionally, Cypress Tree said that they are “committed to positively impact the community” through “local and minority hiring,” and “these will be career opportunities and not just a job.” Cypress Tree has also made a “commitment to employees volunteering annually with local charitable organizations,” and will be a part of “charitable campaigns.”
Cypress Tree will also host meetings four times a year “for neighbors to come and share concerns to work together on potential solutions.”
A resident asked about the ratio of staff to customers in the store, and Chiang said that while there is “no set ratio” at this point, there is a total occupancy of about 108 people in the store, including employees. He said that the team is “envisioning” 20 to 25 employees per shift, but they plan on hiring more than that to handle shift changes and increases and decreases for busy and slow periods.
He said that he hopes there will be many customers who “want to engage” in dialogue relating to cannabis education and learning about different product types and how to consume the, safely. He said that Cypress Tree will be “encouraging consultative selling” as opposed to “transactional.”
Though the floor plans have not yet been finalized, Chiang said that the first floor will likely be used for those who have placed an order ahead of time and are just picking it up, so they are “anticipating” around four point of sale systems there. On the second floor, where the hope is to have more consultation with customers, there will likely be at least 10 point of sale systems.
When asked about a timetable moving forward, Chang said that in a perfect world, the store would open about a year from now, but the “reality” is that both construction and the final inspection process by the Cannabis Control Commission “can be slow,” so it might take longer than that to open.
Chiang told those in attendance that once the store opens, he hopes to have meetings like this “on a quarterly basis, and continue our dialogue with the community.”