Dreams of a reinvented Cleveland Circle collided with fears of widespread marijuana use at a meeting Monday night in Brighton, where residents debated plans to turn the longtime dive bar Mary Ann’s into a recreational marijuana shop.
Several residents said the proposed location was ill-suited for a neighborhood filled with college students and other young residents.
“This is a neighborhood that has a lot of young people,” said Eva, a Brighton resident who declined to give her last name. “They have to be taking good care of their minds and not to be exposed to the temptation to be going and getting marijuana every day.”
Happy Valley Ventures MA Inc., a marijuana company, is hoping to buy Mary Ann’s from its current owners. The community meeting is a state requirement for recreational marijuana facility applicants.
Boston College Police Chief William Evans, who previously worked as the Boston Police Department commissioner, told the audience of more than 75 people that he had never supported marijuana and doesn’t “see any good about putting it near a college institution.”
“When those students came in August, I made myself a commitment that I would watch out for those kids, and I would make sure they go home the same way they got here,” he said.
Others were more concerned about the traffic the shop would bring to Cleveland Circle, where metered parking can be limited. Several residents asked whether the company had spoken with the MBTA or discussed plans for crowd control.
Happy Valley founder Michael Reardon said they would have to evaluate the crowds when they open, but would go to appointment-only if necessary.
Several residents spoke in support for the marijuana store, saying it could bring more customers to the area and create a more vibrant Cleveland Circle.
Jonathan Quinn, 40, said he has lived four houses down from Mary Ann’s for several years, and that it would be great to “not have kids throwing up on my sidewalk.”
Reardon and company lawyer Jeff Drago noted that a recreational marijuana shop would close far earlier than a bar and that capacity would drop from about 200 people to 47.
Customers also wouldn’t linger at the shop for nearly as long, Drago said.
But Evans said that reasoning didn’t justify the shop.
“You get in here and your best argument is, ‘It’s better than Mary Ann’s.’ It’s still going to impact the neighborhood,” he said.
Happy Valley, which launched in 2015, is building several other marijuana facilities across the state.
They have a signed agreement to buy Mary Ann’s from its current owners, investment group Greater Boston Bar Co. LLC, if they receive the proper permitting and zoning approvals.
Company officials said they seek to give customers the best purchasing experience possible.
“The whole entire goal was to be the best marijuana company we could possible be,” Reardon said.
Reardon said he has faced some opposition in most places where he has opened a shop, but that he’s hopeful the company can work with residents to become a positive addition to Cleveland Circle.
“We’re going to give back to the community,” he said.