Add social marijuana lounges to the list of Denver businesses shut down for two months over coronavirus concerns.
On March 16, Mayor Michael Hancock announced that all Denver bars and restaurants would have to suspend onsite dining and drinking until May 11 to limit the spread of the virus, and his public health order extends to marijuana consumption lounges and hookah bars, according to the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment.
Pot lounges and hookah bars that serve food may stay open, but only for takeout and delivery purposes.
This interpretation of the order came as news to Rita Tsalyuk, co-owner of Denver's only licensed pot lounge, the Coffee Joint. "I'm surprised they didn't call the only one," she says. "It kind of makes sense, considering the recent news with restaurants. But restaurants can still deliver, and we can't."
The closure order runs well past April 20 and the 4/20 unofficial marijuana holiday, one of the Coffee Joint's busiest times of the year. Because the Coffee Joint serves pre-packaged food, it will be allowed to remain open for takeout food and retail sales — but no marijuana use.
"I have five people working for the Coffee Joint," Tsalyuk points out. "That's who we're thinking about."
But Denver's options for social marijuana lounges doesn't stop at the Coffee Joint: Several unlicensed private clubs allow marijuana use. Although these are largely unregulated by the city, the clubs fall under the closing order, too, as do mobile consumption lounges that operate in Denver.
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Dewayne Benjamin, owner of members-only pot businesses Tetra 9 lounge and Tetra Tea House, says he is complying with the city's order and suspending operations until May 11.
Over the last week, four of Colorado's major marijuana and hemp events have rescheduled or canceled because of coronavirus concerns, including Denver's annual 4/20 celebration in Civic Center, the FlyHi 420 Festival.
Retail locations were not part of Hancock's shutdown order, nor were they covered by Governor Jared Polis's order to close all restaurants, bars gyms, theaters and casinos in the state until April 16.
That means dispensaries can stay open.