Blue Moon Smoke Shop, which operates nearly a dozen stores that sell smoking and vaping paraphernalia, has had its bid to operate at a former convenience store location in Wellesley lower falls unanimously shot down by the Board of Health on March 17 (see Wellesley Media recording about 11 minutes in). It’s possible Blue Moon will seek another location in Wellesley, though in doing so it will need to find one that is not within 500 feet of another tobacco license holder and adhere to other rules, such as separation from schools.
The 9 Washington St., space Blue Moon had its eyes on is too close to a gas station across the street that sells tobacco products. Wellesley issues up to 10 tobacco licenses, and currently has two available.
Several community members spoke out against Blue Moon moving in, regardless of the intricacies of town regulations. Kitty Huang, owner of Jin’s Fine Asian Cuisine, which operates next door to the vacant space, said she is against Blue Moon moving in. She expressed concern about tight parking, patrons of Blue Moon smoking, and the fact that a lot of kids frequent the area, which is near CVS and pizza shops. It’s a “terrible idea…smoke shop next to us,” she said.
Wellesley Health Director Lenny Izzo was puzzled about why the business would acknowledge understanding town regulations in filling out its application but not try to address the variance issue first (he also cited brochures shared with the town highlighting flavored vaping products that would not be allowed). Wellesley revised regulations last year to keep tobacco license holders at least 500 feet apart to avoid clusters of such businesses forming—not that a gas station selling cigarettes and a smoke shop selling glassware, etc., are really the same sort of business.
The Health Department denied Blue Moon’s initial application back in December on the grounds that the business would be too close to another tobacco license holder.
An attorney for Blue Moon during the March 17 Board of Health meeting positioned the “specialty store” as one with experience—more than 10 years operating tobacco and glassware products (“In fact a lot of the stores tend to have a lot of artistic glassware”). No flavored tobacco, rolling papers, or liquid nicotine products of more than 35mg would be sold, he said. Blue Moon’s request was for the Board to use its “discretion” in allowing the business to operate in the name of “freedom of commerce.”
It would seem that many of the same arguments made by the public against Blue Moon opening in lower falls will come up again regardless of where it may try to locate in Wellesley. We reached out to Blue Moon earlier in March via email to find out why it is targeting Wellesley for a shop, but have not heard back.
Wellesley isn’t the first community where Blue Moon has faced rejection. Beacon Hill neighbors in Boston came out in force to argue against a shop opening there last year.
Meanwhile, Wellesley’s Senior Environmental Health Specialist Vivian Zeng says another smoke shop has called asking about the town’s tobacco regulations. So Blue Moon’s attempt to move into lower falls might not be the last we hear upon this subject in the weeks and months to come.