One of northwest Denver's most popular dispensaries is getting an interesting neighbor. Tetra Tea House, a private cannabis cafe with plans to apply for a city consumption permit, is moving next door to The Joint by Cannabis.
Tetra owner Dewayne Benjamin is taking his cannabis venue concept to 4735 West 38th Avenue, but promises that anyone familiar with his Tetra Private Lounge and Garden space in RiNo will find a different vibe at the new spot. Instead of a private club geared toward live music and DJs, this space will be a tea house and CBD boutique that just happens to allow social pot use.
Both Tetra locations are not licensed by the City of Denver for cannabis use, instead running under a private membership and event model. However, the Colorado Legislature passed a law this year that will legalize and regulate social pot use establishments beginning in 2020, and Benjamin believes that Denver will revisit its current social use rules, which (unlike the state's new law) don't currently allow smoking inside or cannabis sales. Only one business is currently open under those stringent Denver rules.
But even if Denver does change its program, Tetra Tea lounge won't be selling any weed, because it's already partnered with Cannabis One, the ownership group of the dispensary next door, the Joint. According to Benjamin, he's had a relationship with the company since 2017, when he began hosting the Mile High Marijuana Showcase, a Sunday cannabis consumption event.
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"There will be a menu of non-infused exotic teas. It'll be similar to a coffeehouse and things like that," Benjamin explains. "At this point, Tetra has become a tourist destination for people. Over time, we've established great marketing partnerships and relationships with dispensaries. So when they get that infamous question, 'Where can we smoke?' because of the experience we've provided, they'll bring up Tetra."
Like the Tetra RiNo location, Tetra Tea House will only allow members 21 and up inside, with those members signing up online for day-long, monthly and annual memberships. The tea house will also host private events and product launches, for which it will issue one-day memberships. Denver regulators and law enforcement officials have never been fans of the model, even calling it illegal at times. However, Benjamin says he's only had one instance of police citations at his original Tetra location since it opened in 2018, and those were eventually dismissed.
But Benjamin has a new plan for this new spot.
He's shooting for a soft opening by December 1 and a grand opening in January, and has been meeting with representatives of the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses, as well as the city's health and fire departments, in anticipation of filing social consumption applications for both Tetra locations in 2020, if and when the city revisits social pot use; these meetings were confirmed by Excises and Licenses, which oversees the city's social consumption program.
If Tetra's new location is approved for social consumption, the Joint will use the space to showcase its dispensary products. Cannabis One's CBD line will be for sale there from the get-go, according to Cannabis One head of development P.J. Rinker.
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Rinker is banking on Benjamin being able to obtain a local consumption license, which would allow anyone 21 and up to enter the space without signing up for membership. "With the public concept, it definitely changes what the restrictions are, to a certain degree," he says. "The tea house concept is interesting, because I see [Dewayne] ultimately turning this into a tea house and smoothie place that can make smoothies and juices as well as allow people to consume.
"It'd make the Joint more of a destination," Rinker continues, "because when tourists come to town, they don't have a place to consume."
And if it doesn't get a consumption license? Tetra could continue to operate under the private club model, though it could face more legal risks once the state Marijuana Enforcement Division's licensing system is up and running in 2020, putting Tetra in less of a gray area and more of a black one. However, Benjamin participated on the MED rulemaking board for the state's new social consumption law, and says he's confident that both clubs will be grandfathered in once the state begins issuing licenses.
"That's where Dewayne has done a really good job, and that's been working with the local municipalities. If he were someone else who didn't have any experience or just had an idea, we'd definitely stay at a distance," Rinker says. "When he can make this into more of an establishment and get the licenses to make this into sort of a Jamba Juice of weed, where you can add non-THC cannabioids like CBD or CBN to drink, we haven't even gotten close to seeing that potential."