Marijuana, with a musical side, could soon arrive at Faneuil Hall

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You could say that Soul Cannabis, a project vying to take over the now vacant Faneuil Hall space long occupied by the Durgin-Park restaurant, is a joint venture.

That’s because Soul Cannabis would not only include a marijuana dispensary, a first for the historic site, but it would also house a recording studio – run by music director Michael Bivins of New Edition fame – open to guests. local musicians.

The project, which secured a lease for the 15,000 square foot space and will seek approval from the Boston Cannabis Board on Wednesday, is a sign of the times for Faneuil Hall, which has suffered greatly amid the pandemic tourism crisis. . Durgin-Park, of course, was a mainstay of old Boston, serving diners for nearly 200 years before closing in early 2019. Soul Cannabis would usher in the Boston of 2022, a city working to reinvigorate its downtown.

“The idea was that foot traffic would be incredibly beneficial for merchants, especially coming out of COVID,” said Faneuil Hall general manager Joe O’Malley. “It would be another step in the right direction to try to bring the property back to what it was before.”

And for the people behind Soul Cannabis, opening at Faneuil Hall, is a chance to change the market narrative.

“We have the opportunity to really make a difference for communities that have been harmed by cannabis prohibition by allowing them to gain some visibility in the Faneuil Hall market,” said Eric Lawrence, CEO of Soul Cannabis. .

Pedestrians walked past Faneuil Hall in 2017. Charles Krupa/Associated Press

To that end, Soul Cannabis plans to spend $200,000 a year on its recording studio program, providing free production time and mentorship to musicians from parts of Boston designated as having had disproportionately high levels of criminalization of the drug before the legalization of marijuana in Massachusetts. In the retail space, a rotating selection of DJs would be invited to spin tracks, and “whisper booths” would allow customers to record their own karaoke tunes to take home.

The third floor — dubbed “Freedom Hall,” a nod to the market’s historic ties to slavery and the triangular trade between Boston, Africa and the West Indies — would be dedicated to hosting community gatherings, small pop-up businesses and a gallery space for local artists.

“What makes me excited, being a kid from Roxbury, from the Orchard Park neighborhood, [is]to say, you know what, I can catch the orange line, go downtown, get a sheet, and live my dream to music,” Bivins said. “And to say that, hey, history has been broken [at]Faneuil Hall.

To boost the market, Soul Cannabis intends to purchase $2,500 worth of prepared meals from Faneuil Hall merchants each month, to be donated to Voices of Liberation Feed the Hood Program, which distributes food to people in need. They would also join the big hope projectwhich works to seal and erase drug offenses from criminal records.

Existing merchants hope the dispensary will help “put Faneuil Hall back on the map”, said George Maherakis, president of the Faneuil Hall Marketplace Merchants’ Association. Soul Cannabis would be the latest high profile tenant to commit to Faneuil Hall; chain restaurant outposts Margaritaville and Sugar factory are intended to fill vacant windows.

If Soul Cannabis passes the full approval process, they expect to collect and invest about $6 million on the site, which they hope to open in late 2023 or early 2024.

“Faneuil Hall has gone through a period of transformation, especially after the pandemic,” said Victor Chiang, COO of Soul Cannabis. “They are investing a lot to transform the market, with more restaurants, more entertainment concepts. For us, we felt like it was a natural extension of that.


Dana Gerber can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @danagerber6.

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