Potential Hoboken cannabis business at old tavern lights up feud between Bhalla & Fisher


A potential recreational cannabis business at the Hudson Tavern site in Hoboken has lit up the ongoing feud between Mayor Ravi Bhalla and 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher.

Hudson Tavern background photo via realtor.com. Marijuana leaf inset via stickpng.com.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Bhalla began his 1,450 word Nixle alert, which also appeared on the city website, by reminding resides that New Jerseyans voted in favor of legalizing cannabis by a 2-1 margin in 2020, with over 70 percent of Mile Square City residents voting yes.

My personal view at the time, as it remains today, is that the legalization of adult use cannabis provides not only a substantial economic opportunity for Hoboken, but more importantly, an opportunity for us as a community repair damage that the “war on drugs” caused minority communities in Hoboken,” he wrote.

“This damage included countless youth in Hoboken who were tagged as criminals and incarcerated for simple possession of minor amounts of cannabis – an offense which is now legal.”

The Hoboken Cannabis Review Board approved their first application for the Story Dispensary of Hoboken, located at 51-53 14th St., unanimously (3-0) on Thursday at a  nearly five-hour meeting that included commentary from many angry residents.

Story CEO Samantha Silva faced criticism for not voluntarily notifying residents within 200 feet of the project of the hearing, as well as for not taking questions directly.

Her attorney, Lee Vartan, of Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi PC, said it was his decision not to send out the notifications.

Tom Brennan, the former tavern owner, claimed that property buyers Drew Nussbaum and Jaclyn Fulop, of the Exchange Physical Therapy Group – who have a location across the street – had committed to making the building a physical therapy location and the residents were unaware of the dispensary proposal until two days before the meeting.

“Where is the fairness, where is the transparency? This whole thing just seems to be conducted in a really questionable manner … This is the direct community that this will be adversely affecting: these people have chosen 51-53 to be their home so.”

Board members Jason Freeman, the city business administrator, Mike Russo, the city council president, and Leo Pellegrini, the city health and human services director, were undeterred that this was a good investment in the city despite the public outcry against.

“I look forward to continuing the conversation with Ms. Silva, her entire team, and trying to make this a successful partnership between the city, Story Dispensary, and the residents of Hoboken,” Freeman said.

Russo said he was “thrilled” businesses like can now operate within the city guidelines, though also said that Silva and her team need to make amends with her neighbors. He also said it was “unfair” for the landlords of the property to be panned along with the business.

Fisher, who represents the ward where the dispensary would be located, panned the decision on Twitter.

“The #Hoboken Cannabis Review Board should be ashamed of themselves. Simultaneously insulted & ignored concerns of members of the public & defended the applicant. Literally gave their recommendations b/4 hearing the public comments,” she wrote.

She also signed and promoted a petition to “Protect Hoboken Families and Children from Cannabis Dispensary Dangers.”

In his Nixle alert from today, Bhalla noted that the council did not vote on the cannabis zoning ordinances until after getting feedback from each elected official, including Fisher, and all four were approved unanimously (9-0).

The mayor also accused Fisher of spreading “misinformation” without getting into specifics, going on to say that Hudson Tavern sits in a permitted retail location and that the dispensary still need planning board and council approval.

He further stated that the cannabis board approval came after Story agreed to not apply for a consumption license, will pay for the salary of an additional police officer each year, make a $50,000 annual donation to the Hoboken Affordable Trust Fund, and provide an annual cannabis consumption program for residents.

Additionally, if approved, 2 percent of the revenue from the sale of cannabis would be provided back to the City of Hoboken, 75 percent  of which must be allocated for “advancing restorative justice in Hoboken.”

Bhalla also recommended making amendments that would limit six dispensaries for the whole city (as well as three per ward), requiring notice provided to residents within 200 feet of a project before the Cannabis Review Board, and preventing dispensaries from being within 750 feet of a school or day care.

These suggestions will be introduced as an ordinance at the March 9th council meeting, which Fisher took most of the credit for.

“I’m thrilled to see that Mayor Bhalla supports the majority of the common sense amendments I submitted on Monday morning and that we will see this on the 3/9 agenda,” she said.

“I disagree with his revisionist history and will continue, like I always have done, to advocate for the residents of the 2nd Ward and Hoboken.”

While the last provision would apply to the Hudson Tavern application, city spokeswoman Marilyn Baer said the ordinance would not apply retroactively.

“If adopted on first and second reading, the amendments would apply to applications not yet submitted,” she said.

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  1. An honest look at why Hoboken has a poorly written cannabis policy is that Mayor Bhalla rushed to please Governor Murphy and the far left leaders of the Democratic party to be the first to have active pot shops open their doors in New Jersey.

    Isn’t Jacylyn Fulop the wife of Jersey City Mayor Fulop ?

  2. Ravi put out a smokescreen of lies saying no weed shop in residential. Then he tries to cash in with a weed store in one of the densest residential areas in all Hoboken. Hey, Ravi has got to get paid, Russo too.

    These people are garbage.

  3. Would City Council President Michael Russo ever approve a cannabis store on the first floor of Church Towers?


    Dr. Russo wouldn’t want his wife and children be exposed to it as they come and go from their large taxpayer subsidised apartment.

  4. Only got 413 sigs after 6 days, and that’s AFTER Fisher’s breathless, fearmongering, boring email blast. The rest of the 2nd ward doesn’t care, nor does the rest of Hoboken.

  5. Visited Seattle at Xmas where retail cannabis has been legal for years. Most dispensaries have private armed guards. Those that don’t get robbed again and again. Dispensaries with armed guards have been known to “clean up” dangerous corners. 14th and Hudson is not at all dangerous. Maybe place dispensary in a neighborhood that needs a little crime prevention.

    • Having to have armed guards to prevent pot shops from getting robbed sounds dangerous and a wonderful addition to a family friendly neighborhood.
      Kudos to Councilwoman Fisher for looking out for the residents by questioning Hoboken’s rules that will result in a positive change.
      Unfortunately Jersey City Mayor Fulop’s wife was able to slip their pot shop under the old rules and not respecting those in and around the building their weed emporium to notify them before hand as to what they were planning. Shame of Mayor Bhalla his employees and Councilman Russo on the pot Board for allowing that to happen.

      • To quote NJ.com’s story on this topic, “[Councilwoman Fisher] didn’t realize legislation she had approved last year would allow dispensaries in part of her ward, and she admitted she regrets not paying closer attention at the time.”

        If the councilwoman did her job correctly the first time around, she wouldn’t need to claim credit for “common sense amendments.”

        • It was still Bhalla’s employee’s Jason Freeman and Leo Pellegrini and Michael Russo who crafted the legislation. They are made the mess. They own it.

          Unless it wasn’t a mistake and was done to deliver the site to a particular connected investor.

          • Interesting that you bring up a particular connected investor. Everyone knows Councilwoman Fisher has her eye on the State Senate seat. With the redistricting, although giving that connected investor’s wife a challenge could make that path a heck of a lot harder for Fisher. As usual, she plays the short game.

          • Bhalla, Russo, Freeman and Pelligrino wrote pushed the the legislation. They say they are not idiots so by process of elimination it was intentional.

            Council members Cohen, Doyle, Jabbour, Quintero remained silent never questioning their boss. Are the idiots, dishonest or just political bobble heads who understand that Ravi Bhalla paid the bills to put them on his City Council and it is their primary job is agree with and promote his agenda even when it is harmful to the lives of Hoboken residents.

    • A lot of things go on in other communities that don’t go on here. Why would dispensaries be targets for crimes and not bars where lots of money is changing hands and customers are drunk?

      This is a class thing. Second ward is where there is a concentration of Hoboken’s wealthiest residents, like Councilwoman Fisher who is a Tea building resident.

      It becomes obvious when you read comments from “Look at Seattle as an example” who thinks that dispensaries should be confined to “a neighborhood that needs a little crime prevention.” That’s code for less wealthy less white areas like, for example, 300-400 Marshall Drive.

      Alcohol kills. Weed doesn’t. I live in the Second Ward surrounded by bars and liquor stores. I don’t drink. I do enjoy weed. NJ voted 2-1 to legalize. Get over it.

  6. Fulop’s wife going into the weed business in Hoboken? What’s Ravi’s cut? He’s been pushing weed shops in Hoboken long before NJ voters voted on the question.

    Politics makes for strange grift-fellows.

  7. Oh man, Tiff really dropped the ball on this one, big time. If she’d actually pay attention to legislation instead of spending all day writing 20,000-word emails, maybe she would have caught this when she had the chance.