In the 28 years since it opened, Bubby's has become a culinary staple in Manhattan's Tribeca neighborhood, a nofrills, family-friendly restaurant known for such comfort food favorites as pancakes and pie.
Now, Bubby's is taking comfort to a whole different level. The restaurant, which has a second location in the Meatpacking District that opened in 2013, is the latest in New York City to introduce menu items made with cannabidiol, a derivative of the cannabis plant, as in marijuana or hemp.
And while cannabidiol, otherwise known as CBD, doesn't yield the “high” associated with tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC), another cannabis compound, it often is touted by cannabis supporters and some medical experts as offering a host of benefits, including stress and pain relief.
Starting this week, Bubby's will feature drinks made with hemp-derived CBD. The offerings, including coffee, tea and lemonade, will sell for $10 each.
Bubby's owner Ron Silver has long been interested in cannabis from a medical and business perspective. “I'd rather sell cannabis drinks than liquor drinks any day of the week,” he said. (Bubby's continues to serve alcohol as well.)
Even without the CBD products, Mr. Silver said business at Bubby's has been strong during the past year, with sales up nearly 13% over the same period last year. Bubby's two New York City restaurants have annual revenue of about $16 million, he said.
The Drug Enforcement Administration considers CBD a controlled substance, like marijuana itself, and therefore is illegal.
But in New York and some other states, the production of hemp-derived CBD is legal as a result of federal agricultural legislation that allows for the cultivation of hemp as a crop at the state level, according to Shawn Hauser, a senior associate with Vicente Sederberg, a law firm based in Colorado that specializes in marijuana issues.
In April, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, announced an expansion of a state research program that looks at how hemp can be grown for a variety of industrial uses, from food to animal bedding.
“By providing an alternative crop for our farmers, industrial hemp has the potential to change the landscape of our agricultural economy,” Mr. Cuomo said at the time.
In the city, Bubby's is hardly alone in adding CBD to its offerings. A wave of food and beverage retailers is putting the cannabis compound in everything from frozen desserts to coffee drinks.
Soho Cigar Bar in lower Manhattan recently has introduced a line of CBD cocktails, with names like Quality Burn and Netherlands & Chill. “You're always looking for the next new ingredient,” bartender Jared Bailey said.
Mr. Silver said he has plans beyond Bubby's for CBD offerings. With a team of investors, he has launched a company, called Azuca, that will market CBD and marijuana products in New York and elsewhere, as laws apply.
Azuca CEO Kim Sanchez Rael said the company has raised at least $1 million from investors, including Mr. Silver. “We expect to be a global brand,” she said.
by CHARLES PASSY