The Zoning Board of Appeals this week approved what would be Boston's first recreational pot shop, in the old Hilton Tent City building on Friend Street, near North Station.
Ascend Wellness still needs to win approve from the state Cannabis Control Commission - and to do extensive renovation work at the old five-story building - before it can open. Ascend attorney, and former City Councilor, Mike Ross estimated an actual opening is still six to nine months away. If it does win approval to open, it would be the only pot facility for a half-mile around, under a Boston ordinance aimed to limiting the concentration of marijuana facilities in the city.
At the hearing, Ross and Ascend CEO, and former Suffolk County Sheriff, Andrea Cabral, said they've done extensive planning to counter the sort of endless lines that have plagued the state's first pot shops in Leicester, Northampton and Salem, although they added they're not expecting to see anything like that because by the time the Ascend shop opens, some of the novelty will have worn off.
The company will encourage people to order online, and one quarter of the first floor will be set aside for people to wait so that they don't clog up the street, they said. Customers will be encouraged to take the T, rather than drive, Cabral said, adding she's even looking at possibly handing out coupons for other nearby shops to hand out should a line develop to encourage people to enjoy the area's other amenities and come back in awhile.
Ross said the company is looking at serving 200 to 300 customers a day. The shop will normally be open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week, but Ross said the company would gladly open later or shut earlier if there's some huge event at the nearby Boston Garden that could mean large crowds.
Although the building has five stories, Ascend will initially use just the basement and first and second floors for product storage and sales space. Ross said the company is still trying to figure out what to do with the other three floors - one possibility is a floor dedicated to medical-marijuana sales - but that Ascend would not rent out the space to anybody else.
Ross said that all of the products will be grown, baked or infused in a company plant in Athol and then delivered to Friend Street in plain wrappers with bar codes, which workers will get after customers have agreed with sales people on what to buy. In addition to tokable flower, the store would also carry edible products; Cabral said the exact menu is still being drawn up.
Customers will be able to see, but not touch, some products in locked display cases. Ross added the company is looking at adding sort of pot cachet balls that would let customers get a whiff of different types of weed - that would be placed back into locked containers after they've made a decision.
In addition to Ross and Cabral, well known for their local political ties, the company has hired former BPD Superintendent-in-Chief Dan Linskey as its security consultant.
The zoning board granted its approval for a five-year period, to match the five-year "host-community agreement" the company signed with Boston in November. Under that agreement, the company will pay 3% of its gross revenues to the city.
The mayor's office, city councilors Ed Flynn and Josh Zakim, the Downtown North Association and the West End Civic Association all supported the proposal.