The 51-53 14th Street Condominium Association in Hoboken is questioning Story’s Dispensary’s lease, which their counsel calls “false and irrelevant,” ahead of what could be the fifth and final planning board hearing on the project.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Martin Cabalar, of Becker & Poliakoff LLP and counsel for the condo association in the matter, wrote an October 28th letter to the planning board that the applicant does not have a letter of intent to lease from the property owner – Drew Nussbaum, the business partner of Jaclyn Fulop who is also Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop’s wife.
The lessee, NJRE 5153 14th LLC, is listed at an address owned by Aaron Epstein, who had previously testified before the planning review board and the cannabis review board that he was consultant for the project.
” … The occupation by Story Dispensary of Hoboken LLC, as ‘an affiliate of the Lessee,’ is the subject of a sublease relationship according to the Lease. This, of course, is all contrary to the testimony offered by Mr. Epstein that he is not involved in Story Dispensary of Hoboken, LLC, other than through a management agreement between his cannabis management company and Story,” Cabalar wrote.
He continues that the lease executed on behalf of NJRE 5153 14th, LLC by Touraj “Jason” Vedadi, the former executive chair and board member of Harvest Health and Recreation., a cannabis operator that was recently acquired by Trulieve Cannabis Corp.
Howard Hintz, the 40 percent owner of Story, is Vedadi’s business partner at Harvest Health.
Furthermore, Cabalar notes that the property lease gives a purchase option for 51-53 14th Street Retail LLC, Nusbaum’s entity, to be sold between December 2022 and continuing through May 2023 on sliding scale between $3,445,000 and $3,420,000.
If sold, this would be about a $1 million profit, since Nussbaum paid $2.4 million for the ground floor.
Since this would indicate that Epstein in fact knew about the terms of the lease and the ownership, Cabalar believes he should have to testify before the land use board again.
Lee Vartan, counsel for Story, said in response that Epstein is an attorney and advisor to the lender and financier, which leased it to the dispensary. He also said that his address was used to be a state registered office, which is common practice for attorneys.
“The Association’s letter is wildly off-base. All appropriate disclosures were made to the Cannabis Review Board and the NJ CRC, and the Board approved Story’s application in accordance with the law,” Vartan added.
“Neither the Fulops nor the landlord have any direct or indirect interest in the tenant dispensary, and the purchase option is fair or below market and was the product of arm’s length negotiation between attorneys — my client’s owners were unaware of the first lady’s identity until after an agreement had been reached.”
He also touted “the national cannabis experience of my client’s lender and franchisor” and that the “business deal mirrors hundreds of other dispensary applicants.”
The Hoboken Planning Board is considering the application at the former Hudson Tavern, 51 14th St., and has already heard over 20 hours of testimony over the course of four meetings since June.
The fifth and potentially final meeting is tonight at 7 p.m. at the Multi-Service Center, located at 124 Grand St., to accomodate a likely large crowd.
Responding to Vartan, Cabalar said the fact that Vartan didn’t mention Hintz speaks volumes.
“Hintz is business partners with Touraj Vedadi, the undisclosed principle of this venture who has ties to a publicly owned cannabis entity. Furthermore, Epstein has never been represented as counsel to Story or its proprietor as it would have impaired Story’s ability to claim a minority or under-represented status to jump the line in priority,” he said.
“In addition, it would have created a clear conflict of interest for him. Thus, Mr. Vartan’s statement does nothing other than confirm what is in our letter: (1) the Landlord is the true Applicant before the Planning Board, but hasn’t come forward as such and (2) the Landlord has direct ties to the Owner of the property.”
Regardless of tonight’s outcome (or not), the condo association has pending litigation in the matter. While the four claims against Story were dismissed, two counts against Nussbaum and Jaclyn Fulop are still active.
Cabalar has previously said the group would likely refile if the planning board approves the project.