Applications were accepted starting in November 2021, and the first licenses were granted earlier this month. One such business, Tetra Lounge which is located in downtown Denver, is both a social equity applicant and a soon-to-be owner of a hospitality license (once the proper inspections have been completed), as of March 21.
Tetra Lounge owner Dewayne Benjamin hopes that things will be finalized soon, since there is less than one month to go before the arrival of 4/20. “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 told Westword. “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.”
Benjamin shared his thoughts on the importance of having a legal place for both locals as well as visitors to consume, especially since Denver is a hotspot for tourism. “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.” In the past, the Tetra Lounge operated as a private social club.
In an interview with 9News, Benjamin also shared that his business offers a daily membership that gives customers access to the lounge for a full day, as well as a monthly or annual membership for residents or frequent visitors.
The Coffee Joint also now has a hospitality license. Previously, it was the only operator permitted to allow on-site consumption, as long as it happened outside. The city’s program was reworked, and The Coffee Joint’s license has been grandfathered in for the new hospitality rules.
Two more applications for hospitality licenses are still pending. The Patterson Inn, a popular destination for ghost hunters, recently received a recommendation from a hearing officer to be approved for a cannabis hospitality license, as of a March 4 hearing. “Today was an important step in this process,” Owner Chris Chiari said after the hearing. “Licensing businesses of this kind is the best route forward for the city to be able to regulate and take enforcement action when needed.” Chiari has plans to feature a cannabis-friendly area for hotel guests, although consumption in hotel rooms would not be permitted, and guests must bring their own cannabis, as there would be no sales on site.
The Denver Weed Lounge is also applying to be both a hospitality license owner, as well as offering sales, and if approved it would allow customers to purchase cannabis and consume it on-site.
The Denver Department of Excise and Licenses Communications Director Eric Escudero told The Denver Gazette about the program’s social equity focus. “For the first six years of the program, only people designated as social equity applicants are authorized to apply for a hospitality establishment,” Escudero said. “We want to achieve the full promise of legalization, and that in our mind is making sure there’s equitable access so more people can benefit economically—not just those who have financial advantage or advantage of connections.”
It has taken some time for this program to come to fruition. The Denver City Council approved smoking lounges in April 2021.