Blue Moon Smoke Shopwhich operates nearly a dozen stores that sell smoking and vaping paraphernalia, had its bid to operate in a former convenience store in Wellesley Lower Falls unanimously rejected by the health board on March 17 (see Wellesley Media Recording about 11 minutes). Blue Moon may seek an alternate location in Wellesley, but to do so will need to find one that is not within 500 feet of another tobacco licensee and follow other rules, such as than the separation of schools.

The Village Market convenience store once occupied 9 Washington St.

9 Washington St., the 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 have spoken out against Blue Moon moving in, regardless of the intricacies of municipal regulations. Kitty Huang, owner of Jin’s Fine Asian Cuisine, which operates next to the vacant space, said she was against Blue Moon moving in. She expressed concern about tight parking, Blue Moon patrons smoking, and many children in the area, which is close to CVS and pizza places. It’s a “terrible idea…a tobacco shop next to us,” she said.

Wellesley Health director Lenny Izzo was puzzled as to why the company would acknowledge understanding city regulations when completing its application, but not try to solve the variance issue first (he also cited brochures shared with the city highlighting flavored vaping products that would not be permitted). Wellesley revised regulations last year to keep tobacco licensees at least 500 feet apart to avoid clusters of such businesses – not just a gas station selling cigarettes and a smokehouse selling glassware etc. are really the same type of business.

The Department of Health rejected Blue Moon’s initial application in December on the grounds that the company was too close to another tobacco licensee.

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A lawyer for Blue Moon at the March 17 health board meeting positioned the “specialty store” as a store with experience – over 10 years of experience operating tobacco and glassware (“In fact, a lot of stores tend to have a lot of artistic glassware”). No flavored tobacco, rolling papers or liquid nicotine products over 35mg will be sold, he said. Blue Moon’s demand was that the board use its “discretion” to allow the company to operate in the name of “free trade.”

It looks like many of the same arguments made by audiences against Blue Moon opening in the Lower Falls will recur no matter where they try to settle in Wellesley. We contacted Blue Moon earlier in March via email to find out why they are targeting Wellesley for a store, but have not heard back.

Wellesley is not the first community where Blue Moon has been rejected. Beacon Hill neighbors in Boston came out strong argue against opening a store last year.

Meanwhile, Wellesley’s senior environmental health specialist, Vivian Zeng, says another tobacco shop called to inquire about the city’s tobacco regulations. So Blue Moon’s attempt to move to lower falls may not be the last we hear on this topic in the weeks and months to come.

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