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Incoming Cleveland Circle marijuana dispensary causes community controversy

The ongoing reconstruction of the former Boston College dive bar, Mary Ann’s (pictured above), into a marijuana dispensary has met with resistance from locals. HALEY ABRAM/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

By Ayodele Abinusawa and Marla Hiller

Mary Ann’s Bar, a decades-old dive bar in the Cleveland Circle neighborhood of Brighton, is set to be replaced by a medical marijuana dispensary, which has sparked pushback from people in the area.

Happy Valley Ventures, the company planning to open the dispensary, has been approved for a purchase and sale agreement to purchase the space, the founder and CEO Michael Reardon said. However, they still have to obtain a non-opposition letter from the Boston City Council and approval from Massachusetts marijuana regulators and the Boston Zoning Board of Appeal.

Reardon said he thinks the dispensary will be a positive addition to the community.

“We’re fulfilling a desire as voted for [in] that area in Boston,” Reardon said, “We will renovate the building and make it more attractive. We have a very lengthy background of real estate development.”

Happy Valley Ventures has the goal of contributing to the communities where they set up shop, which, Reardon said, will be the case in Cleveland Circle.

“We like to give back,” he said. “It’s tough to get over all the stigmas. We like to spread goodwill if that means supporting causes and donating money.”

Unlike a bar, which would typically close around 2:00 a.m., Reardon said, the dispensary will close at 9:30 p.m. Reardon explained that this schedule will create less disturbance to the community than the previous establishment.

Local business owners in the Cleveland Circle area from Eagle’s Deli and Sunshine Cleaners declined to comment on the potential opening of the dispensary.

Jamie Bloom, 24, of Brighton, said he would understand why some people at Boston College, the nearest university to the dispensary, would be opposed to the sale of recreational marijuana in their area.

He said the store will be taking away a popular spot for students and residents of the area by replacing the bar.

“Replacing it with any kind of business that could be put elsewhere, than you’re taking away a second home for some people,” Bloom said. “So, I kind of side with BC, and so, that dispensary … can be placed in another building so that it’s not taking the place of something that means something to people.”

Back Bay resident Mary McLaughlin, 82, said she does not approve of the construction of the dispensary.

“There’s a lot of students, so I wouldn’t think it would be the place for it,” McLaughlin said. “It would be nicer to have, you know, someplace where everybody could go and have a drink or a cocktail or whatever that’s not sort of sleazy.”

Brookline resident James Libby, 54, also said he does not want the dispensary to open.

“I wouldn’t want one there,” Libby said. “It’s a drug. It’s a drug, plain and simple.”

Andrew Asare, 54, of the South End, said he does not want the dispensary to be there himself, but thinks it could be helpful for some people.

“It’s going to be too much,” Asare said. “It’s going to create some problems with the students and for the administration. It’s going to create problems, but at the same time, it’s going to help some people who are sick.”

Mackenzie Finocchiaro and Caitlyn Leonard contributed to the reporting of this article.

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