Marijuana applicant faced sanctions off-Island

ABCC cited Noah Eisendrath’s bar for serving minors.

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Noah Eisendrath, left, and Josh Silver, right, describe an adult-use and cultivation site they're looking to open in Vineyard Haven. — George Brennan

Updated 3:15 pm

One of the men who wants to open a marijuana facility at 65 Mechanic’s St. in Vineyard Haven owns an off-Island bar that had its license suspended for six days last year for serving underage college students. He also faced a subsequent four-day suspension this year after another violation.

Noah Eisendrath, who told Tisbury selectmen Tuesday that his family has a seasonal home in West Tisbury, is the owner of two Boston bars. One of them, Wonder Bar in Allston, was cited twice in 2017 and once in 2018 for serving underage patrons. The bar reportedly served six underage students from nearby colleges, including Harvard, Boston College, and Boston University, on Oct. 22, 2017, but police said at the time that they could have found even more cases, according to a report by Universal Hub. In a second incident on Dec. 2, 2017, investigators for the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) found a total of eight people between 18 and 20 drinking everything from mixed vodka drinks to a Corona, according to public records obtained from the ABCC.

The ABCC issued three six-day suspensions for the violation, but allowed the bar to serve them concurrently. The commission voted for a total of 19 days of suspensions, but withheld some of them as long as the bar stayed out of trouble, according to an ABBC decision in the case.

Then on March 5, 2019, the ABCC slapped Wonder Bar with a four-day suspension after an 18-year-old using a fake Colombian ID was found drinking a gin and tonic. The ABCC issued a one-day suspension for that violation, but ordered Wonder Bar to stay closed for four days for violating the terms of the initial suspension. The most recent suspension was served from June 5 to June 8.

Eisendrath, in a phone conversation with The Times, acknowledged the lapses. “Unfortunately it happened,” he said. “I knew I’d be explaining myself. Allston is a college town, there are a lot of fake IDs out there.”

The Wonder Bar incidents happened, in part, Eisendrath said, because the bar was relying on an $800 handheld scanner that was often duped by fake IDs. According to Universal Hub, which covered two of the incidents, the second incident in 2017 occurred two weeks after Eisendrath apologized for the Oct. 22, 2017, incident before the Allston licensing board.

Eisendrath said the incidents pushed him to purchase a $6,000 ID scanner, retrain staff, and meet with the local police chief to come up with better protocols. Since then, his bar has had no incidents. Coolidge Corner Clubhouse, a second bar he co-owns, has had no incidents, he said.

Among the concerns raised as the Island considers licensing a retail marijuana outlet is minors getting their hands on it. 

“I absolutely understand the concerns and that it would raise eyebrows,” Eisendrath said. Marijuana dispensaries are much more stringent about who is let into the door than a restaurant or bar, he said.

It is Eisendrath who will be seeking the state license through the Cannabis Control Commission for what is known as Main Street Medicinals.

Josh Silver, whose company Silver Therapeutics has retail marijuana outlets in Williamstown and Orange, is consulting on the project, and did most of the talking before selectmen Tuesday.

On Thursday, he told The Times he is aware of the state suspension issued against Eisendrath’s bar. “Part of the reason we were brought on is because we have operational experience,” Silver said. “Part of the way you get in trouble with underage serving is a breakdown in policy and operating procedures. We have been operating without incident.”

The procedures in place require an ID before someone is even let into the facility. IDs are checked two different times by two different people, Silver said. When someone approaches, they’re buzzed into a vestibule, which Silver described as a “mantrap.” They can’t get buzzed into the facility until they show security an ID and it is scanned to make sure it’s valid, he said.

“It’s pretty foolproof,” he said. “We don’t leave any of it to the discretion of our staff. If an ID is damaged and won’t scan, even though the person has a long, gray beard, we won’t let you in.”

While bars have someone outside who scans an ID, marijuana facilities have the two-tiered check-in, Silver said. “It would be tough to do it twice and beat a machine,” he said. “And every person is on video. If somebody were to allow somebody in and it became known to us, we’d be able to ID them, and there would be severe repercussions.”

Silver is confident that Eisendrath has learned from the suspensions. “I don’t think it speaks to someone’s character,” he said.

Selectmen took no action during Tuesday’s informal presentation. Silver told the board Main Street Medicinals would be back with a more detailed proposal in about six weeks.

Updated to include public records from the ABCC.