An equity applicant is now proposing a retail cannabis dispensary for 331 Newbury St. in a location that the city approved as a medical marijuana establishment more than three years ago.
The primary owners of the Rooted in Roxbury, who outlined their plan during this month’s meeting of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay Licensing and Building Use Committee, which was held virtually on Feb. 1, include Solmon and Rokeya Chowdhury, the proprietors of Shanti Restaurant, with locations in Dorchester, Roslindale and Kendall Square in Cambridge, and the Dudley Café in Roxbury, along with lifelong Boston residents, Brian and Joanne Keith.
(Besides the proposed Back Bay outpost, Rooted in Roxbury has another location in Roxbury, which was unanimously approved by the Boston Cannabis Board in November, but has yet to go before state’s Cannabis Control Commission.)
The Newbury Street store would occupy around 1,535 square feet of ground-floor retail space, said Brian Keith, and its proposed hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, with reduced hours on Sundays. All sales would be by appointment only upon opening, he added, “until we understand peak demand.”
Rooted in Roxbury on Newbury Street would be a high-end establishment, Brian Keith said, which he likened to a “boutique wine store” as opposed to a “corner liquor store,” with minimal signage. The owners also pledge that the establishment won’t sell single “joints.”
“It’s not something we want to see,” said Brian Keith to committee members regarding the potential sale of single-rolls at the Back Bay location. “We want to work with you on this.”
Rooted in Roxbury has also hired Ware Security, a Roxbury security company owned by people of color, he said, and all patrons at the Back Bay location would have their IDs scanned in the sales vestibule twice to ensue they are 21 or older before they are allowed inside the sales area.
All deliveries would also be made on Newbury Street in an effort to mitigate the impact on residential neighbors, said Brian Keith, and any would-be patrons seen double-parking in front of the establishment would automatically have their orders cancelled.
Investors would be able to buy into Rooted in Roxbury for as a little as $1,200 a share, according to the owners, and, to date, they have included 100 percent people of color, 51 percent women and 100-percent Boston residents.
“Our investors are our neighbors,” Brian Keith said, “and we welcome new ones from Back Bay to share in the success of this location.”
In November of 2017, Compassionate Organics won the approval of the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals to open a medical dispensary at 331 Newbury St. and partnered with Green Thumb Industries (GTI) the following year. GTI, which has continued to pay rent at the location, would have a 9.9 percent share in the Rooted in Roxbury’s Back Bay store only, said Ben Keith, “to help them recoup their losses.”
Besides allocating 3 percent of sales to a “dedicated city fund,” Rooted in Roxbury would also establish a “separate Community Benefits Fund,” Brian Keith added, with 5 percent of the equity “set aside for employees.” (The Back Bay location is expected to create 30 new jobs, he said.)
Elliott Laffer, who serves as chair of NABB’s board of directors, expressed concern that other nearby cannabis retail dispensaries had already received approval to open, including Cypress Tree Management in the current location of Little Steve’s Pizzeria at 1114 Boylston St. in the Fenway, as well as SIRA, which plans to open blocks away on Boylston Street, while Ember Gardens is now awaiting approval on 297 Newbury St. But these approvals have come despite the city’s mandate that two such establishments couldn’t be located within a half-mile of each other.
“It’s the challenge we face in the way it was set up and to have that half-mile [buffer] mean something,” Laffer said.
Joyce, a public relations consultant for the applicant who previously served as the city’s press secretary under former Mayor Thomas M. Menino, responded, “We can’t comment on the city’s process, but we’re aligned in that we wouldn’t want any more dispensaries in Newbury Street either.”
Meanwhile, Rooted in Roxbury has yet to schedule a hearing date with the Boston Cannabis Board in regard to its proposed Back Bay location, said Joyce, but it would follow an abutters’ meeting sponsored by the Mayor’s Office.