In late September, America got its very first hemp bar, when an establishment called Brooklyn’s Dark Hemp Bar opened in New York City. But not even a month passed before it closed, thanks to demands imposed by regulators from the city’s health department. One possible reason may be that hemp–which can now be legally grown in New York state–is still wrongly perceived as a mind-altering drug, and may have been targeted by the city. But the reason given was mindlessly technical: the bar didn’t have enough sinks.
As first reported Monday morning by evgrieve.com, an East Village real estate blog, the store has closed after announcing its conflicts with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The bar was opened by Lev Kelman, an immigrant from Uzbekistan who sells a line of health-oriented chocolates that contain small hemp levels. His products are sold at several dozen mom-and-pop stores across the city, and online at BrooklynDark.com. The bar was designed to be a headquarters for better marketing his product. Located on St. Mark’s Place between Second and Third Avenue, it was a 70-square-foot pop-up shop featuring a counter and a coffee-and-tea station.
Kelman explained his first health department run-in occurred several weeks ago. He had initially paid $100 for an inspector to grant him pre-approval–and she did. But another inspector later came to say that there were not enough sinks. Per the city code, Kelman explained, restaurants must have separate sinks for employees to wash their hands and wash dishes. Kelman’s store possessed both, but according to this second inspector, the sink for washing dishes must include three compartments, side-by-side, each with separate drainage systems.
Kelman refused to comply with this demand, knowing that it would skyrocket his business costs while adding no decipherable public safety benefits. It would also be impractical–even impossible–in such a small store that produced very few dirty dishes.
“Why would you require that 10% of the place be a sink?” he asked.
But the department still fined him $800, and threatened further fines if he wasn’t compliant in a week. So down he has gone, and there are no immediate plans to relocate. Instead, he just posted the following message on the store’s front door: