Marijuana

RiNo Marijuana Lounge Receives City Approval, Eyes April Opening

Tetra Lounge has been operating as a private marijuana lounge since 2018, but the venue is about to open to the public soon.
Tetra Lounge has been operating as a private marijuana lounge since 2018, but the venue is about to open to the public soon. Jacqueline Collins
Denver has approved the city's first marijuana lounge designated for indoor smoking.

Since 2018, Tetra Lounge, at 3039 Walnut Street, has operated as a members-only marijuana smoking lounge, but owner Dewayne Benjamin has been chasing a permit to operate publicly since pot hospitality licenses were created. However, the city's first social pot consumption program banned indoor smoking until last year, when Denver City Council adopted new rules regarding pot hospitality.

The new program, open for applications since last November, allows indoor smoking and marijuana consumption by people 21 and older. Benjamin applied within days of the new program's launch and received a favorable recommendation from a city hearing officer earlier this month. Already approved for pot hospitality at the state level by the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division, Tetra received its local license to operate today, March 21, from the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses.

"The goal has always been to prove the model to the city. Back when I opened in 2018, they just released the first hospitality rules, which didn't allow smoking. The plan was to get the license with that smoking provision," Benjamin says. "People travel from all around the world to smoke cannabis in Denver, and a lot of them don't know how it affects them or where they can consume."
click to enlarge Tetra 9 owner Dewayne Benjamin - COURTESY OF TETRA 9
Tetra 9 owner Dewayne Benjamin
Courtesy of Tetra 9

Tetra will continue operating as a lounge where visitors pay an entrance fee, with daily passes and monthly memberships available, Benjamin explains. Visitors must bring their own marijuana to consume at the lounge, which doesn't have a license to sell any pot products.

The lounge now needs to pass city zoning and air filtration inspections before it can open as a common consumption area. According to Excise and Licenses communications director Eric Escudero, it's possible that Tetra could be open by April 20, "depending on how quickly" it schedules and passes inspections.

"Our hope is to see as many opportunities as possible for people to legally consume on 4/20 so they do not violate state marijuana consumption law," Escudero adds.

Benjamin says he's already updated the interior and air filtration system in anticipation of local inspections. He is currently talking with Governor Jared Polis's office about a ribbon-cutting ceremony for March 30, and adds that he plans to open on April 15. A grand-opening party for 4/20, the unofficial marijuana holiday on April 20, is also in the works.

Although Tetra has been open for over four years as a private establishment and will continue holding regular events like video-game night and budtender appreciation parties, Benjamin foresees more business partnerships and celebrity appearances now that his place is fully licensed. He also wants the lounge to serve as an educational model for a burgeoning space in the marijuana and hospitality industries, he says.

"We're already one of the biggest tourist attractions for the cannabis industry in Colorado, and we want to use Tetra as a social place and a spot for education for the state," Benjamin adds. "We've been waiting for this for so long, and we're ready to get started."

Denver's first licensed pot lounge, the Coffee Joint, was grandfathered into the city's new hospitality rules, but only allows vaping and edibles consumption. Tetra is in line to receive the city's second marijuana hospitality license, but another applicant, the Patterson Inn Hotel, is also deep in the process. The Patterson received a favorable recommendation to open from a city hearing officer several days before Tetra did, but because there was a neighborhood objection to the license from a nearby property owner, that decision has been delayed ten days, according to Excise and Licenses.
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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for westword.com.
Contact: Thomas Mitchell