When Chris Chiari first saw Denver’s historic Patterson Inn in 2011, he immediately saw its potential to be a cannabis consumption lounge—especially with its address, 420 East 11th Ave.
“The first time I saw the house, I literally looked up at the house and I said, ‘I want to turn you in to a marijuana bed and breakfast,’” Chiari, who purchased the Patterson Inn four years ago, told Cannabis Business Times. “It seemed like the perfect place to start telling this next chapter of the story of cannabis legalization.”
The previous owners had turned the Denver landmark into a luxury hotel, which has been operating for nearly a decade.
Now, Chiari has launched The 420 Hotels as a separate entity that will ultimately become a cannabis consumption space in the hotel’s carriage house.
Chiari views on-site cannabis consumption as the “final mile of legalization” that will further destigmatize and help normalize the plant, and he plans to unveil his consumption space at the Patterson Inn as a unique hotel amenity.
“For me, what it looks like is an amenity,” Chiari said. “I believe it’s the most exciting and unique amenity in hospitality in America today, and I’m excited to be in a position to make cannabis hospitality as an amenity to overnight hospitality. [I] believe it will be an amazing attraction and an attractive reason for guests to want to book an overnight in my hotel. I also believe that I have a model and a product that can survive and stand up in what will eventually be a competitive market in a dozen-plus gateway cities in America and possibly around the world.”
The Patterson Inn has a tavern in its basement that will celebrate a soft opening May 13 before opening to the public full time starting on May 27. The cannabis consumption lounge, which is provisionally licensed, will then be operational this fall, Chiari said.
“We’re testing the waters right now on Republic.com, so we do have an active crowdfunding campaign … that just broke $100,000 yesterday,” he said, adding that the crowdfunding effort will allow him to gauge whether there is a market for his business.
The capital raised will be used to build out the consumption lounge, with ventilation being Chiari’s biggest hurdle.
“Denver never outlawed cigar lounges or hookah bars, but what they did was increase the air standards required for a smoke-filled environment,” he said. “As we’ve added new cannabis hospitality regulations here in Denver, there haven’t been any modifications to those rules. We’re falling under that smoke lounge space, so I’m looking at what’s going to be a six-figure buildout [with] equipment and installation of an air ventilation system. We’re ready to start building.”
While guests at the Patterson Inn are still prohibited from smoking cannabis in their rooms, the lounge will provide both new and experienced consumers with a quiet, private space to retreat and enjoy cannabis products.
“As a new consumer, it’s the novelty of ‘I can’t believe I’m smoking in my hotel,’” Chiari said. “For the canna-experienced, it’s the cannabis that fits into the cycle of their day of how they regulate their time and enjoy their recreation. … It’ll be, at the end of the night, the cannabis they’ll consume before turning in for the night. Also, the joint [they’ll] smoke at breakfast with [their] coffee, reading the paper before [they] set out for the day’s adventure.”
Denver allows two types of business models for cannabis consumption spaces; they can sell cannabis on-site by the gram or by the dab, or they can allow customers to bring their own cannabis.
Since the city is already home to many dispensaries, Chiari opted to allow his guests to bring their own cannabis to The 420 Hotels’ lounge.
“Denver right now is not … in desperate need of any more points of sale for cannabis,” he said. “We have no points of consumption. At the end of the day, I want to be an amazing place to sleep—the best place to sleep—and you have access to this amenity on-site. I didn’t want to also be the best place to find cannabis.”
Chiari plans to build relationships with some of the existing cannabis brands in Denver whose products are already available at several retailers within walking distance of the Patterson Inn. Cannabis delivery is also gaining traction in the city, he added.
And, since The 420 Hotels lounge is attached to a hotel, guests won’t have to worry about securing transportation to get home.
Over the next several years, Chiari wants to build out 12 to 15 additional cannabis consumption spaces in hotels across the country, perhaps as part of a private club.
“I do see a space with reciprocity, with intimate offerings and boutique hotels, and with legal licensed on-site spaces for cannabis consumption,” he said. “We have the opportunity to attract an audience of several thousand people or more who are likely to become our core clients, moving through these different properties through these different gateway cities.”
Eventually, Chiari expects to see cannabis consumption spaces in every legal market.
“They will flourish in the same way we saw a spike in cultivators and a spike in dispensaries, and then some of them underperformed and failed,” he said. “I think the next three to five years will be very telling in this space. I’m frustrated that it’s taken this long to be launching this type of business ancillary to cannabis in the consumption space, but again, thrilled with what I think is the most thrilling, unique, exciting amenity in the world and attached to [a hotel] that I personally find to be striking with curb appeal."