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Tetra Lounge and Other Denver Businesses Face Legal Trouble Over Unlicensed Cannabis Events

License officials from the Denver Department of Excise & Licenses have continued issuing warnings to unlicensed cannabis event organizers and venues in the city. The department started rolling out the letters in June after it had received multiple complaints of unauthorized events that were taking place. Officials carried out investigations at some locations before warnings were served.

The Denver Department of Excise & Licenses is tasked with the responsibility of managing cannabis licensing in the city. They also handle the licensing for security services, residential rental properties, short-term rentals, and alarm permits.

Recent Issuances Regarding Unlicensed Cannabis Events

Eight businesses were recently issued warnings for hosting cannabis-related ventures. On the other hand, Tetra Lounge received a general violation ticket. The city’s officials made their enforcement move on the 29th of July.

In an email to Green Market Report, Eric Escudero, the representative from the Denver Department of Excise & Licenses, explained the situation.  He said, “After a series of complaints, Denver took enforcement action against unlicensed hospitality businesses in Denver last weekend”.  He further stated that “Citations, fines, and enforcement activity by the City and County of Denver are always a last resort after every effort has been made to educate businesses about licensing rules and regulations”. Eric Escudero also revealed that Tetra Lounge got a separate ticket because of the “necessity of a license to operate”.

Tetra Lounge was launched in 2018 as a private club, but it has closed several times over the years. However, it was to reopen as a cannabis garden in July 2023, and it would need to be authorized to operate. Although Tetra Lounge did not respond to the query immediately, the case was later transferred to the Denver City Attorney’s Office to be handled as a criminal matter.

The other businesses that got warning letters include:

  • Art gallery Ant Life
  • Metra Talent Group
  • The Marijuana Mansion
  • The Psychedelic Club of Denver
  • NORML Denver
  • The Vape Loft
  • Rooted Heart Yoga Studio
  • Clubhouse Collective

According to Denver’s licensing officials, a business organized a pot-friendly movie screening event that was against the city’s law on the social consumption of cannabis. However, the claims remain unconfirmed by the said business and venue. The department also believed that Stoner Cinema Pop-Up planned to organize a cannabis-friendly screening of the movie Grandma’s Boy (2006).

As promoted online, the screening would be held at an event venue and salsa-making facility called Dreams Aren’t This Good. The film screening would allow their attendees to use cannabis. Also, Peter Dante, one of the movie’s stars, would make a celebrity appearance.

Response to the Warnings

Some of the businesses that received a warning made some comments about the charges.

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Jacob Lemanski, the owner of Ant Life, said that his venue is not exactly a functional cannabis consumption lounge. However, they allowed the private use of cannabis during events. He stated ‘The hoops you have to jump through, and the costs of getting up and running as a cannabis lounge, is just prohibitive”. Also, “I don’t think a business owner could see making their money back in that situation. It’s too hard to do.”

The owner of the Rooted Heart Yoga Studio, Nikki Hazamy, also explained that she did not know that her business was violating the city’s law. Her studio sometimes allowed the use of cannabis during private yoga sessions. According to Hazamy, “It’s very vague – what you can and can’t do with cannabis.”

Stoner Cinema Pop-Up

Stoner Cinema Pop-Up was founded by Nick Barreto and Josh Manary, and it started operating in 2022. The film screenings for Half Baked and The Sandlot took place last year at Stoner Cinema Pop-Up, with free pot and novelty joints set up. However, the event organizers have owned up to its cannabis-heavy activities.

The founders previously told Westword that their events are invite-only, and tickets are only sold to people who are 21 years old or older. Moreover, they pay their studio film screening dues. Barreto and Manary further explained that these facts make their events private. And as such, they can operate without a local marijuana hospitality license.

The license officials do not share these sentiments, as explained by Escudero. He said, “If a marijuana business is conducting commerce, there is a requirement for licensing.” He revealed that Dreams Aren’t This Good and Stoner Cinema Pop-Up have been served “the equivalent of a warning letter” for holding unauthorized cannabis-friendly events.

Denver’s Cannabis Hospitality Rules for Unlicensed Cannabis Events

Denver’s cannabis hospitality rules were launched in 2017, and licensed social consumption lounges are working to meet the operation criteria. So far, the Excise and Licenses department has only authorized three mobile lounges and one venue as legal hospitality operators.

Cirrus Social Club, the licensed venue, was approved in March. The business is an upscale dining and consumption center. Arend Richard, a co-owner of the company, told Westword how it would function. “We’re going after a demographic of people who are not heavy cannabis consumers, but rather the out-and-about social person who’s older than 27”. “If a date night for you is dinner and a movie, then it now becomes Cirrus and dinner. You come in, have a lovely sesh with us, and hear the jazz music in the background.”

The only hurdle left for the club to cross is its operation plan. It must pass the safety, access, and ventilation inspections that would be done by the Denver Fire Department, Denver Department of Community Planning & Development, and Excise & Licences. According to Westword, Patterson Inn Hotel, Tetra Lounge, and the headquarters of Colorado Cannabis Tours are three cannabis venues still seeking approval for their hospitality licenses.

Escudero has made it clear that the city is putting in an effort by issuing “licensing bulletins detailing the rules for marijuana hospitality.” And that there is the hope that “businesses that are operating marijuana hospitality without the city and/or state required license will take steps to get licensed.”

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