Coloradans will unwrap one big gift on Thursday, July 20, when the Levitt Pavilion starts its inaugural season in Ruby Hill Park, with nearly thirty free concerts and shows and room for 7,500 people, along with spaces for food trucks. Tim Cullen, CEO of the Colorado Harvest Company dispensary chain, is especially excited to attend the first show — partly because it's one he helped create.
Colorado Harvest Company contributed $100,000 to the Levitt Pavilion's capital campaign, making it the venue's biggest benefactor. "That wasn't anticipated," Cullen says, although he definitely anticipated getting a great venture off the ground. "First, it was a great idea that can change the music scene and its public availability for generations to come. Second, they're uniquely situated as a nonprofit. We're uniquely situated, in that we can advertise with a nonprofit and not much else."
The State of Colorado allows dispensaries and other cannabis businesses to advertise with publications, radio stations and television stations only if reliable evidence shows that over 30 percent of the audience is over 21; marijuana billboards are largely banned. (A handful of Colorado dispensaries have joined the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Adopt-A-Highway program, which gives them secure signage in high-traffic areas in exchange for paying for workers to clean up stretches of road.)
Most outdoor cannabis advertising of any type is prohibited in Denver. Levitt Pavilions, which are located throughout the country, are owned by the cities that house them, but each Levitt Pavilion remains a nonprofit venue – and that allows cannabis companies to announce themselves, Cullen explains.
Cullen, a member of the Levitt Pavilion Denver board of directors, isn't the only representative of the cannabis industry; Jeremy Heidl, chief operating officer of O.penVape, is also on the board, and O.PenVape is a presenting sponsor for the Levitt.
"From the moment we heard plans for The Levitt Foundation's new project in Denver, we were instantly drawn to something that brings culture and talent to the Denver community. After meeting with Chris Zacher and his amazing team, we were immediately sold on the idea and knew we needed to be involved," Heidl said in a statement. " We are thrilled to be the presenting sponsor of Levitt Denver – it has long been a dream to participate in a project of this scale at such a high level."
Zacher is the executive director of Levitt Pavilion Denver, known for his work managing City Park Jazz on summer Sundays and taking the program to new heights. His involvement in the Levitt project was a large reason why both Heidl and Cullen joined, the men say.
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"We saw this as an opportunity to connect with the community in something more long-term than a highway sign," Cullen says. "Community involvement has always been something that is part of who I am. I always knew we were going to help do something like [the Levitt], but I wasn't sure what it'd be."
While Colorado Harvest is helping bring music to Denverites, they won't be enjoying marijuana in the venue. The city's newly approved social-consumption pilot program prohibits social consumption on land owned by the city, such as Red Rocks Amphitheatre and parks like Ruby Hill, where Levitt Pavilion sits. The topic of a social-consumption area hasn't even come up at any Levitt Pavilion Denver board meetings, Cullen says.
But Cullen says that he's just happy to see a project he's been a part of for more than three years come to fruition in one of his favorite parts of town; he frequently eats lunch in Ruby Hill Park, which he thinks has the best view of downtown in the city.
Social-pot consumption would be "a cherry on top" of the main goal of bringing the Levitt to Denver, he adds. Still, Cullen couldn't help but notice a little discrepancy. "I'm very happy with how the Denver City Council approached the social-consumption initiative," he says. "But at the same time, the Levitt is pursuing a liquor license."