Condo association files lawsuit to stop Story Dispensary

Association alleges that property owners were misleading in creating cannabis dispensary

Story Dispensary is looking to create a retail cannabis store at the site of the former Hudson Tavern, but is now facing litigation. Screenshot via Google Maps.

A feud over a potential retail cannabis location in Hoboken has now reached a smoking point, with the condo association that represents the building the store could be in suing the applicants and the property owners to stop the dispensary from being established.

The 51-53 14th Street Condominium Association filed a lawsuit on Monday, alleging that the defendants had misled in the creation of a dispensary “under the false pretense” of relocating a physical therapy practice co-owned by the wife of Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.

The dispensary in question is Story Dispensary, whose owners are trying to establish a retail cannabis location at the site of the former Hudson Tavern, but have been met with backlash by a number of residents that have aroused discussions over the sale of cannabis within the Mile Square City.

It’s a long….story

Story Dispensary had applied in the beginning of the year to operate a retail cannabis location, with their CEO being Samantha Silva, a Hoboken resident. Silva owns a 60 percent interest in the company, according to a recent planning board application, while Howard Hintz, an Arizona resident, owns 40 percent.

But when Story had a hearing before the Cannabis Review Board in February, they were met with backlash from a number of nearby residents, who have voiced concerns how a store there would affect their building and the neighborhood.

The board had approved their application despite public comments, but the backlash eventually led the City Council to adopt new cannabis restrictions in the city.

Tom Brennan, the former owner of Hudson Tavern, sold the property back in November. Photo by Mark Koosau.

The applicants have also received calls by a number of council members led by Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, who represents the 2nd Ward where the dispensary could be located, to withdraw their application.

In the lawsuit filed in Hudson County Superior Court, the plaintiffs allege that back in May of 2020, Tom Brennan, the now-former owner of Hudson Tavern, had listed the restaurants and liquor license for sale.

A few days after July 7 (the lawsuit doesn’t specify whether it was in 2020 or 2021), he was then approached by Exchange Physical Therapy Group, a business owned by Jaclyn Fulop, the wife of Mayor Fulop. Drew Nussbaum, a general partner of Exchange, said that they were interested in buying the property to relocate from their location at 1325 Hudson Street.

While showing the property to Nussbaumn, Jaclyn Fulop and Mayor Fulop himself, the mayor had asked Brennan if he was willing to take the property off of the market at the time. Brennan then agreed to sell the property, to which the parties specified that the use would be for a medical office, and the property was sold on Nov. 19 of this year for $2.4 million.

But after the property was sold, the lawsuit alleges that the property owners then entered a letter of intent to lease the commercial space to Story.

“All of the residential unit owners are opposed to the improper and unapproved use of this space as a cannabis dispensary,” reads the lawsuit. “The use of the commercial unit as a cannabis dispensary is in direct contravention to the association’s governing documents as a deleterious activity.”

The lawsuit alleges that Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop had asked Brennan if he would take the property off the market. Photo by Mark Koosau.

On April 15 of this year, the association had offered mediation with Story and the property owners on the condition that Story would voluntarily adjourn any hearings before the Planning Board until July 15, and stipulate that the store would not become a consumption lounge. But Story and the owners declined to participate, leading to the association to sue them.

The plaintiffs are suing on six counts, including declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, nuisance, common law fraud, civil conspiracy and corporate veil piercing/alter ego. The defendants listed are 51-53th Street Retail LLC, Exchange Physical Therapy Group, Nussbaum, Jaclyn Fulop, Story Dispensary, Silva and Hintz.

The association is being represented by Vincenzo Mogavero and Martin Cabalar of Becker & Poliakoff. The law firm declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Fisher, who has been opposed to the applicants, said that her constituents “were shocked and are devastated by the possibility that this location will be a cannabis dispensary and not the medical office we all expected.”

“As stated publicly before, I ask that the operator and the owners of the property withdraw their application before they go any further in hurting the quality of life of Hoboken residents who live in this area,” she said.

Council President Michael Russo, who sits on the Cannabis Review Board, said that the city of Hoboken can’t get involved in a dispute with a condo board. “I think we let that course kind of run, and whatever the courts decide, is what will happen,” he said.

Lee Vartan, counsel for Story Dispensary, told Hudson County View that they plan to file a motion to dismiss in short order.

Mayor Fulop declined to comment on the lawsuit and directed any questions to the city’s press office. A spokesperson for Jersey City did not respond for comment.

For updates on this and other stories, check hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mark Koosau can be reached at mkoosau@hudsonreporter.com or his Twitter @snivyTsutarja.