A Model for Cannabis Consumption Lounges
When you have spent more than 30 years studying all sorts of brands, you one day realize that the campaigns you worked on and promotions you developed were the experiences of the brands themselves. In the retail space, I was fortunate to have worked on brands like Vons Grocery, Wells Fargo Bank, Ralph’s, McDonald’s, Carl’s Jr., Toyota and so many other car and fast food brands.
In states where cannabis is legal, we are seeing the evolution of brands in various consumer categories. People around the country have expressed the need for places where they can learn about cannabis, CBD, tinctures, topicals and so many other products you can consume. They are also looking for places where they can elevate their state of being, state of mind and in some cases, their state of wellness. Enter consumption lounges.
In the 70’s and 80’s, bars, lounges and dance clubs ruled while the cool bohemian coffee houses were establishing themselves as places to imbibe while hanging for an hour or two. That was then. Bars became dives and dance clubs are for the really cool people. And we all know that the coffee houses became overshadowed by big regional and national coffee chains that now dominate the space.
California appears to be in line to lead the country with on-premise cannabis consumption lounges. With about a dozen in the Bay Area like Barbary Coast or The Green Door, a couple in the LA area like Cannabis Cafe, and currently 4 in the Palm Springs area. They all have different designs and environments for people to experience. When cannabis became legal for recreational use in Colorado and Washington in 2012, Forbes, Fortune, and the Wall Street Journal published articles about what laid ahead. I remember thinking how cool it would be to have a counter like in my dad’s restaurant, where you could have an iced tea, and be able to light up.
One place in Southern California is The Vault Dispensary Lounge in the middle of the Coachella Valley, Cathedral City. This former bank building, and yes it does have a big vault in the back, became the brainchild of owner/operator Rich Eaton. He brought in a designer that gave the place a great makeover and created a cool vibe lounge feel where anyone, any age, could come in and enjoy consuming however and whatever they feel like.
When you enter, the colors stand out. No dank green paint. The chocolate and cream colors are warm and inviting immediately letting you know this isn’t what some would consider a stoner joint. Pun intended. You walk into the dispensary side and the retail space is laid out to give you a mini-mart sense of sorts. Refrigerator units hold the THC-infused beverages, live resins, isolates and edibles people are becoming familiar throughout California.
The merchandising in the dispensary is made easy for you to navigate choices of infused chocolates, pre-rolled cannabis cigarettes, vape cartridges, and flower. They also have a section with tinctures, topical lotions and oils. Depending on the day of week and time of day, you may have brand reps showcasing their product lines, eager to educate customers on the profiles of the products they carry. Once you make your selection, you can take it home with you or consume it in the lounge.
The lounge includes a “bar” area where you can get snacks, water, beverages or consumption rigs for dabbing or bongs for smoking. For the uninitiated, you will be amazed at the types of equipment available for you to smoke the cannabis flower you bought, or dabbing oil, wax, crystals, etc. On occasion, a knowledgeable “cannasseur” will be on hand to educate customers on cannabinoids, impart their knowledge of strains, and explain the possible benefits or experiences one could have consuming cannabis in available forms. Other times, there are wellness meet-ups for you to learn about self-medicating, cannabinoids, THC micro-dosing, cooking with cannabis, and ways to elevate your experiences.
If your preference is to sit in one of the open “living rooms”, grab your water and your weed to enjoy while you sit on relaxing sofas and watch TV or just be on your phone uninterrupted on your social media feed.
On some occasions, groups of industry people sit and have meetings while passing a blunt or connect to their WiFi, respond to emails, read the latest news and stay connected.
On a recent visit, an older lady was at the counter picking up her weekly dose of THC-infused hops water called Lagunitas Hi-Fi Hops. She mentioned to Summer, the budtender at the counter, that she had her girlfriends coming over. Summer brought out 4 bottles in a carrier and the lady brought up 4 more carriers. She said she was going to need more. She stated that with her age and health reasons, she and her girlfriends had ditched the afternoon wine drinking for something better. She took her 20 bottles back to her 55+ country club nearby for a drinking sesh with her pals.
Rich had mentioned to me a short while back that a few guys who come in regularly had decided that they would create their own social club where they live. “They don’t golf and don’t play bridge or cards, so the decided they would create their own 420 club” he said. People can gain knowledge about dosing, strains, products and experiences in an environment that lets them feel safe. Kind of like going to a bar you visit regularly, if that’s what you’re in to.
Consumption lounges are beginning to take shape as social hangout places much like neighborhood bars and coffee shops. While the trendsetters in today’s world appear to be the younger segment, those who lived through the battle on drugs appear to be experimenting and enjoying having a sesh of their own. Maybe they are making up for lost time or really finding out what they were missing out on all this time.
At the end of the day, people visit The Vault for various reasons: to break away and relax, contemplate life, work on emails, respond to clients or family, hang out with like-minded buds… Whatever the reason, consumption lounges will continue to pop up in California and other regulated states and you’ll want to experience the space where you can enjoy freely.
Pretty soon we’ll be “seshing” good in the neighborhood.
For more information on The Vault Dispensary Lounge, visit https://www.enjoythevault.com/