A weed-friendly Philadelphia pizzeria that got shut down by the cops this spring is about to reopen for business.
Stoned Pizza, a speakeasy-style pizzeria in Queen Village, was selling cannabis-infused pizzas and beverages to happy customers until cops raided the business in May. Cannabis-infused restaurants are thoroughly illegal in Pennsylvania, but cops actually shut the restaurant down for more mundane reasons. A joint investigation by the city's Licenses and Inspections and Health Departments determined that the restaurant did not have a health certificate or even a business license.
City officials forced the restaurant to close immediately, but business owner Chris Barrett isn't willing to give up so easily. This week, he is re-opening the restaurant with a new name and an updated business model. The pizzeria, now rebranded as Pizza Pusha, will serve the exact same menu as its former incarnation, but without the THC this time. Instead, patrons will be allowed to bring their own weed and smoke up while they eat.
Pizza Pusha's new business model could still cause some friction with local authorities, though. Like many other major cities, Philadelphia has a Clear Indoor Air Act that prohibits indoor smoking at restaurants and other public establishments. But as Barrett points out, that law specifically bans tobacco smoking and does not reference cannabis at all. The restaurateur also argues that since the pizzeria is reservation-only, it is technically not a public venue.
“I don’t want someone walking in off the street and the place is smelling like weed and they didn’t want that,” Barrett told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “If everybody makes a reservation and we’re not open to the public, I think it could work.”
There's another little legal problem, though. Recreational cannabis is still prohibited in Pennsylvania, despite the advocacy efforts of former Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. Philadelphia decriminalized minor cannabis possession back in 2014, though, and Barrett hopes this ordinance will keep the cops from sniffing around his pizzeria. Local decriminalization hasn't stopped local cops from busting people of color for weed, however, and cops have also shut down other Philly establishments that allowed indoor pot smoking.
Barrett is confident that he can get around these restrictions because he already has years of experience running quasi-legal infused pizza businesses in his home state of New York. Barrett initially launched his first Stoned Pizza business in 2017 out of his apartment, and a few years later, he was able to open two speakeasy-style locations in Manhattan. He also set up a second business, Eighths, which sells individual infused slices in the Bronx and Brooklyn.
Adult-use cannabis is legal in New York, but the state has yet to legalize infused-food restaurants. NYC officials haven't tried to shut down any of Barrett's local businesses, though, and the success of these two ventures actually inspired his decision to try to open a Stoned Pizza in Philly.
“The most customers we have that are not from New York are from Philadelphia,” he told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “When you come to the restaurant, you have to check in, you have to give us your credit card and your driver’s license. We were seeing half of the licenses were from Pennsylvania, and from Philly more specifically.”