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Queen Village pizzeria that adds cannabis to pies is shut down

Stoned Pizzeria — which operates three other locations in New York City — infuses its food with THC oils, but also purports to sell edibles and flower to customers, per its website.

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by Beatrice Forman and Michael Klein

Published May 12, 2023

Philadelphia authorities say they have shut down a Queen Village pizzeria that puts cannabis in its food and beverages.

A joint inspection conducted by the city’s Licenses and Inspections and Health Departments on Friday evening found that Stoned Pizzeria — a New York City-based pizza chain that opened a location earlier in May at Fifth and Bainbridge Streets — lacked a business license and health certificate.

Three uniformed police officers accompanied inspectors as they examined the business, which is guarded by a security guard. Stoned was attempting to fulfill to-go orders while the inspection occurred, including one that had a pre-rolled joint, per an Inquirer reporter at the scene.

The restaurant was instructed to cease operations as of 6:35 p.m. Friday, but general manager Luke Wetherhold offered conflicting information about the entity that had taken over the former location of adjoining restaurants Olly and Gigi.

First, Wetherhold claimed that the business wasn’t a restaurant at all, but a fully operational event space called South Street Events. Then, he claimed nothing was operating at all.

“We haven’t opened yet, so how could we get shut down?” he said.

Wetherhold told inspectors that South Street Events was owned by Chris Barrett, the same man who launched Stoned Pizza in 2017. Barrett — who goes by the nickname Pizza Pusha online — operates three Stoned locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, apparently with little pushback.

New York legalized marijuana in 2021, but dispensaries and other cannabis concepts have been slow to open, beleaguered by licensing issues and high start-up costs. The sale and possession of marijuana is still illegal in Pennsylvania, but was decriminalized in Philadelphia in 2014, meaning that small amounts of weed will not result in a criminal offense.

Barrett could not be immediately reached for comment.

It was not clear Friday night what steps the restaurant could attempt to reopen.

Word had been spreading through Queen Village over the last few weeks about the business, which operates behind thick gray curtains.

Cait Allen, president of the Queen Village Neighborhood Association, said she learned about Stoned in a “whisper-down-the lane” manner from neighbors who had walked past the storefront, confused about the activity coming from what they assumed was a set of closed restaurants.

Stoned’s Philadelphia location, like its others, operates like a speakeasy: There’s no sign outside, and customers are texted the address after paying for reservations by using the app. Inside, the pizzeria is decorated with an Instagrammable neon sign that reads “Either light up or leave me alone,” a mural of drawn hearts and the restaurant’s name capped by a SEPTA logo, and wooden tables lit with candles. The soundtrack thumps with decades-old Eminem, 2Pac, Jay-Z, and 50 Cent.

A health department inspector places a cease operations sticker on the front of Stoned Pizza on the southwest corner of Fifth and Bainbridge Streets, which was operating without proper licensing, the department said.Read moreSteven M. Falk / Staff Photographer

Allen said her concerns with the restaurant are twofold: “The flouting of the rules is what really concerns me ... but I also want to encourage bars and restaurants that attract residents, not tourists. Residents are not attracted to cannabis businesses.”

Allen said she contacted the South Street Headhouse District and various city officials, including District 1 Councilmember Mark Squilla, to elevate her concerns about Stoned.

Together, she said, the Queen Village Neighborhood Association, the Headhouse District, the Society Hill Neighborhood Association, and Bella Vista Neighborhood Association have asked for a change to South Street’s zoning overlay that would ban smoking lounges such as cigar bars, hookah bars — and presumably pot pizza shops — from opening. A hearing on the ban is set for next week.

Based on its social media and a visit by an Inquirer reporter, Stoned offers the same experience in Philadelphia as it does in New York: a fixed-price meal at $120 a person that includes pizza, salad, “lollipop” chicken, garlic knots, cannoli, sorbet, and sodas — all of which then get an addition of oils containing THC, the mind-altering ingredient in cannabis.

All guests must be 21 or over, per Stoned’s website, which also advertises that “a variety of edibles, concentrates, and flower [are] available for purchase upon arrival,” including fruit chews and a $150 cigar-sized spliff called the “Godfather.”

Waiters can describe the amount of THC in each item, which ranges from 25mg in a garlic knot to 40mg in each slice of thick-crusted rectangular pizza. Customers may eat and drink all they want in their 2½-hour stay but can’t take out leftovers.

Collingswood cannabis hopes also dashed

Barrett, 49 — the owner and “Pizza Pusha” — wrote on his website that he experienced a “light bulb moment” during a cannabis dinner in California in 2015.

In 2016, he said, he threw his first cannabis dinner at a townhouse and offered guests a late-night snack of cannabis-infused pizza.

Since then, Barrett has claimed his pizza parties and restaurants have never been shut down by law enforcement, even when they were operating illegally.

“I’ve never been hiding,” Barrett told Vice in 2019. “They’re going to get me for pizza?”

Last summer, Barrett raised eyebrows when he posted a since-deleted Instagram photo with a caption that stated his aspirations to open a Stoned on Haddon Avenue in Collingswood, Camden County, just over the Ben Franklin Bridge from Philadelphia.

He told the website that he did not intend to open a restaurant, per se, calling it a “private events space with ticketed access.” He then told the publication that his goal was to become “the In-N-Out Burger of cannabis pizza up and down the East Coast.”

The Collingswood idea seemed to have faded. Barrett again took to Instagram in June 2022 writing, “Collingswood City Officials do not want us in their city” after Mayor Jim Maley said that current zoning law generally prohibits cannabis-related businesses from operating on Haddon Avenue.


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