The Blue Violets cannabis dispensary in Hoboken has become the first weed shop in the city to clear the city’s Planning Board, putting them one step closer to opening a store on Washington Street.
The co-founders of Blue Violets, which consist of Weehawken couple Maxwell and Lauren Chang Thompson, are seeking a shop at 628 Washington St.. They had previously gotten approval by the city’s Cannabis Review Board back in April, and were hearing before the Planning Board at City Hall to go over their plans.
Maxwell Thompson said that he formerly worked at a King Kullen grocery store in Long Island, New York for several years, and at a CVS Pharmacy. He testified that they will have up to 10 employees as a micro applicant, with four or five on-site each day, while the shop itself will have a occupancy load of 14 people on the ground floor.
“We know we have a small unit,” said Thompson, noting later on that the first floor will be 850 square feet of space. “So one of the ways that we’re going to address this right off the bat when we open is to do a soft opening. We want to make sure we can accommodate as many people that are interested but without breaching those requirements.”
He explained that they would start with 10 pre-appointments or pre-orders per hour in a day, and will increase the amount they serve until they determine a number they can accommodate, and will be open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m..
Thompson continued that there will be frosting on the window and the side of the front door that will be translucent enough to let light in but also be opaque enough so that people can’t see into the storefront from the sidewalk.
Commissioner Tom Jacobson inquired if they will anticipate on whether or not they will keep their soft opening model later on or have walk-ins, to which Thompson replied that they will keep relying on appointments as it will be “convenient for everyone,” though they anticipate taking a couple of people “off the street eventually.”
Thompson continued that he did “a lot” of community outreach, noting that the story about cannabis “became a little bit complicated”; he said that they reached out on social media, as well as speaking with some of the nearby tenants.
One of the questions that hung around Blue Violets was their proximity to two nearby schools: All Saints Episcopal Day School and the Hoboken Charter School. Elizabeth Urtecho, a resident who had organized a petition against the applicants, asked why they chose the Washington Street address.
Thompson answered that they wanted to get a close by space from Weehawken (which currently has a local ban on cannabis sales), but said that “everything was really expensive” when they started their search, and also had to abide by rules in regard to cannabis and mortgages.
“After several months, we contacted within the zones because their lease had become on the market,” he said. “By chance, it was in the zone, and it also going down right with the mortgage. We got very lucky.”
Questions were also raised about the new cannabis regulations that were adopted by the City Council back in April, which prohibits a dispensary from being within 600 feet of a school, and whether or not Blue Violets was in violation of that due to the two nearby schools.
Board attorney Scott Carlson said that any applicant is “entitled to the benefit of the law” as it stands at the time they submitted the application to the city. “In this particular case, there was no school requirement at the time the application was submitted and accordingly applied to this applicant,” he said.
They also faced questions about queuing, with Thompson saying that there won’t be because it’s prohibited, and that their per-appointment and pre-order system will facilitate traffic. He also added that if someone tries to do so, they or the security guard will ask them to make an appointment or visit other business around.
During public comment, Blue Violets faced opposition from Councilwomen Tiffaine Fisher and Jen Giattino (whose 6th Ward includes the 628 Washington St. address), with the former saying that they’re “inconsistent with the sentiment of our current City Council.”
“Do we believe that they will be able to manage it? They’ve not given you any reason to believe that tonight,” said Fisher. “Their testimony has been very vague. They didn’t even give us the opportunity to look at the capacity in their plans. They didn’t give us the opportunity to talk about traffic.”
Resident Mary Ondrejka also spoke out against the applicants, alleging that “every cannabis shop[…]will change the fabric of the neighborhood,” and that students from the nearby Stevens Institute of Technology will also be put at risk.
“We are Hoboken people, we welcome people from all walks, obviously,” she said. “But we have to look at what is really a quality of life for us. It will diminish my quality of life, as well as the storekeepers I’ve spoken to that aren’t here tonight and the people that live across the street.”
Although public comments were negative against Blue Violets, the commissioners on the board unanimously decided to approve them.
“I do think the applicants put a good case together,” said Commissioner Ryan Peene. “There’s a lot of talk about queuing, and I have a problem with targeting a cannabis business for queuing when as a community, we wait outside Fiore’s for roast beef and mozzarella on Saturday, we wait in from of the Hive for cinnamon buns, and I just think it’s unfair to target them here.”
The day after the vote, Blue Violets celebrated getting past the next step of their approval process on social media. “We can’t thank our team of professionals enough for helping us through this, and ALL OF YOU that have been supporting us along the way!” they said on Instagram. “We are forever #grateful.”
The board was set to also hear the Jersey Joint, another prospective cannabis applicant, but were carried over to Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. due to the length of the meeting.