Update: Tetra 9 has since closed until it receives a marijuana hospitality license from the City of Denver.
A hotel and members-only pot club have both applied for marijuana hospitality licenses in Denver, according to the city's Department of Excise and Licenses, and the respective owners of those businesses say the majority of heavy lifting has already been done.
Denver City Council approved an overhaul of local social marijuana consumption rules
last April. Only one licensed marijuana lounge was operating under the previous rules, but Tetra Lounge
, a marijuana-friendly lounge in RiNo at 3039 Walnut Street, and the Patterson Inn, a boutique hotel in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, are making progress toward local approval.
Both Tetra and the Patterson have been approved for hospitality at the state level by the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division
, according to the MED's licensee list, and have completed their initial city requirements as they wait for public hearings.
A marijuana lounge that allows people inside based on monthly and short-term memberships, Tetra has been operating as a private club since 2018, but owner Dewayne Benjamin has been working with Excise and Licenses to transition into a more public-facing business model, which he compares to that of a gym. Although he still plans to keep Tetra under a membership program after becoming licensed, Benjamin says that gaining a city permit will open his club up to more advertising and partnership opportunities.
"My main goal right now is obtaining this license and seeing what partnership opportunities I have with dispensaries. Hospitality is so broad, especially in this industry, and there are still so many opportunities for teahouses, coffeehouse, spas and things like that," he says. "The sky's the limit for cannabis hospitality moving forward."
The Denver native, who graduated from East High School in 1999, says that owning a "legitimate" and licensed marijuana lounge has become a major career goal as the pot hospitality sector continues to wane in Colorado, where local and state governments have been slow to permit social marijuana use and entrepreneurs have been hesitant
to jump in. To get a leg up on the process, Benjamin has been upgrading Tetra's interior features and ventilation system in anticipation of applying for a hospitality license under Denver's new social marijuana consumption program.
"Over the past couple years, I've been slowly preparing to get the property up to code. Hopefully this will be a smooth transition, and it shouldn't change my business model too much," he says. "I was pretty involved with the city council and was proactive with how I see this license working and growing this industry. I don't see any hurdles or anything like that going on."
Benjamin hopes Tetra will be licensed by April 20 of this year, and says the club will remain open as a private pot club during the application process.
Just over two miles south of Tetra in the Cap Hill neighborhood, another licensed pot parlor is in the works. Patterson Inn owner Chris Chiari
was the first applicant under Denver's new hospitality program last November, following through on years of publicly stated plans to add social pot use to his historic mansion hotel, aptly located at 420 East Eleventh Avenue.
The Patterson Inn could add a marijuana lounge, if the owner gets what he wants.
Chiari successfully rezoned his property in August and says the city has already reviewed his operation and odor-control plans to allow for indoor smoking. He's working with a Philadelphia-based architectural firm to create a steampunk-inspired marijuana lounge, and will offer $4.20 passes into the lounge for Patterson guests. Although he doesn't plan to allow patrons in off the street, Chiari says Patterson guests will be able to bring visitors in for an additional $7.10 per person.
"Whatever the standards are for circulation in a smoke lounge, let's move the standard up. I don't want smoke everywhere when people walk inside," Chiari says. "I know who I'm targeting, and I'm looking to create a safe space, not a crowded, busy or high-traffic venue."
Colorado hotels can allow outdoor marijuana smoking on their properties, but the vast majority ban pot consumption. And because of recent additions to the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, hotels now have to obtain a pot hospitality license from the MED in order to allow indoor smoking. If approved by the city, the Patterson would become Colorado's first hotel licensed for marijuana use.
"I am the now first hotel owner-operator in Colorado, and possibly the world, to have reached this benchmark of at least a state license [for marijuana hospitality]," Chiari says. "I know there are other lounges and operators and different takes on this business around the word, but none of us have had this path toward commercial cannabis licensing."
Benjamin and Chiari are both currently awaiting public hearings with Excise and Licenses, and they still need approval from local neighborhood or business associations in order to receive their permits. Both men expect to begin the public-hearing process within the next month.