The owner of Bluemoon Smoke Shop won’t move forward with his plans to open on Charles Street after more than 160 neighbors voiced their strong opposition to the proposed location during a virtual meeting Monday.
“I respect the opinion of the neighborhood and am not going to pursue the plan,” Malik Hyat told The Beacon Hill Times Tuesday. “We’re sorry for any inconvenience, or bad feelings, we have caused the neighborhood, and we respect their opinion.”
Hyat, owner of Bluemoon, which has around a dozen stores throughout Greater Boston, including locations on Newbury Street, as well as in Kenmore Square and Downtown Crossing, made his poorly received case for the proposed Charles Street store to the neighborhood during a meeting co-sponsored by State Rep. Jay Livingstone and City Councilor Kenzie Bok.
Bluemoon had signed a 10-year lease to occupy the former home of Danish Country & Modern at 138 Charles St., said Hyat, and the store there would have sold vaping and smoking accessories, as well as cigar and cigarettes, with proposed operating hours of 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.
In a statement, Margaret Mishara, the landlord for the property, wrote, “Based on the feedback of the neighborhood I have decided to dissolve the lease with Blue Moon Smoke Shop. We are looking to fill the space with a tenant that would be an asset to the community. All inquiries about the space should be directed to Eliott Levine who can be reached at 401-663-8049 or by email at [email protected].”
In response to Hyat’s decision to not move forward with opening the store, Rep. Livingstone wrote, “I greatly appreciate Mr. Hayat listening to the significant community concerns and reconsidering his decision to proceed. I thank everyone who spoke up. This good result is the collective work of the community, which I’m proud to represent.”
Rep. Livingstone added the Boston Public Health Commission also confirmed that Hyat has withdrawn his application for a tobacco permit at 138 Charles St.
Rob Whitney, Chair of the Beacon Hill Civic Association, applauded Blue Moon’s decision to abandon its plans to move to Charles Street, as well as the landlord for allowing the lease to be terminated.
“The Beacon Hill Civic Association is relieved that the owner of the Blue Moon Smoke Shop and the landlord at 138 Charles Street, as a result of the extensive feedback from the Beacon Hill community, have decided to dissolve their lease agreement in this location,” Whitney wrote. “The landlord has stated that she will fill the space with a tenant that would be an asset to the community.
“The BHCA remains deeply concerned about the planned location of a smoke shop within Beacon Hill, as all shops are in very close proximity to multiple elementary schools,” Whitney continued. “Vaping and smoking among children and teenagers is a rapidly expanding crisis in the City of Boston and nationally, and we believe that any tobacco retail space used to sell these products is unhealthy and unsafe near schools and where children regularly pass by.”
Moreover, Whitney added: “We would like to thank City Councilor Kenzie Bok and State Representative Jay Livingstone [for co-hosting the meeting], and we also applaud the over 160 neighborhood residents who participated in the meeting. The strong expression of opposition from the Beacon Hill community to this proposed smoke shop location made all the difference, and led to this happy outcome.”
Neighbors in attendance at the meeting resoundingly expressed their deep concern that the smoke shop would be in close proximity to Hill House and multiple elementary schools, including The Advent School, Park Street School, Torit Montessori School and Beacon Hill Nursery School, and located just a few doors down from J.P. Licks, an ice cream shop at 150 Charles St.
“Every day, school children walk by,” said John Dowling, who lives “almost right across the street” from the proposed smoke shop’s location, “and it’s the wrong message to present to our youngsters as they’re going from one place to another.”
As for opening a smoke shop around the corner from Mass General Hospital’s Cancer Center, that decision, Dowling said, “doesn’t make any sense at all.”
Celeste Day, who also lives across the street from the storefront, told Hyat he is “highly unwelcome in this community.”
“Your shop is predatory and making people sick,” Day said. “You should really consider moving to another location.”
Diane Coldren of Joy Street said, “I think this is really not the use that the community is looking for at this location.”
Regarding the proposed store’s potential health implications, Coldren added, “We’ve done so much to move away from smoking, the risk of moving back would be public health disaster.”
Millicent Cutler, the owner of ouimillie, a store located at 126 Charles St. that specializes in European fashion, jewelry and décor, said she chose to open her business on Charles Street because of the street’s sense of “smallness” and lack of chain stores.
“As a business owner, the pandemic has been really tough on all of us, and I don’t see how this is going to help,” Cutler said. “I think we would have an easier time filling the 17 [retail] vacancies [on Charles Street] without a smoke shop on street.”
Rep Livingstone said, “There are more vacancies on Charles Street than there have ever been and filling those vacancies with businesses that will be appreciated by the neighborhood is important.”
Councilor Bok echoed this sentiment, describing Charles Street as “such a special and an unusual street in the city” that is as much a part of the residential community as it is a part of the business community.
“Charles Street is so precious to this community,” Councilor Bok said. “We need to come together as a community who cares so much about the street to see what we actively want to pursue for vacancies.”