On-site consumption spaces can allow more people to safely—and legally—enjoy cannabis, but dispensary owners must work to provide a welcoming space for their customers to consume their products.
San Francisco’s Barbary Coast opened its on-site consumption lounge in March 2017, on one side of its 4,500-square-foot dispensary. Founded in 2013, the company didn’t want to create a cannabis superstore with its extensive space, but instead integrated the lounge to provide a safe place for its customers to consume cannabis.
“There are a lot of people who are just in town for conventions [and] … vacations, and where they live at home, they don’t have access … to cannabis [or] places where they can consume,” Executive Director Jesse Henry tells Cannabis Dispensary. “For them, it’s a cool experience to come in and be able to consume cannabis in a place that’s safe, clean and comfortable. That’s really our motto—safe, clean and comfortable.”
California law prohibits the consumption of cannabis on the streets, in hotels or in federally funded housing, so Barbary Coast’s lounge provides a legal space for consumption.
“The bottom line is safety,” Henry says. “Obviously, the devil is in the details, so just make sure all the little things are taken care of and that generally provides a safe and well-functioning atmosphere for the big things.”
Here, Henry offers tips and best practices for other dispensary operators looking to offer on-site consumption.
1. Keep the smoke contained.
Barbary Coast’s lounge is essentially an enclosed room with a state-of-the-art HVAC system that constantly cleans and recirculates the air, Henry says.
“The way we have it, it’s a negative pressure room, so even if the doors are open, smoke won’t come out onto the sidewalk or into the other room, into the dispensary, so it’s really enclosed,” he says. “We still have patients and customers who come in and just purchase their medicine, or maybe some of them are buying topicals and edibles and vape pens, and maybe they don’t want to smell the smoke.”
2. Offer exceptional customer service.
Barbary Coast designed its consumption lounge with a layout similar to that of an old steakhouse, Henry says—with the customer service to match. The space features booths that can comfortably seat five to six people, as well as tables that accommodate two or three guests. Two or three hostesses are always on staff to seat customers and make sure they have a good experience.
“When you come in, we want you to feel that we’re providing the best customer service similar to if you were going to a really nice hotel or a really nice restaurant,” Henry says.
3. Set some ground rules.
Safety should always be the first priority when implementing on-site consumption, and a set of house rules helps ensure that customers are consuming safely.
Barbary Coast has a time limit for guests in its lounge, for example.
“It’s a half-hour time limit in there, and that’s just basically to make sure that nobody’s over-consuming and then also to give people the opportunity to get in there and use it, as well,” Henry says.
Alcohol and tobacco are prohibited in Barbary Coast’s lounge, and the hostesses are authorized to turn people away if they have been drinking.
“We don’t want to have any negative reactions whatsoever, so we make sure people are drinking enough water and that they’ve eaten,” Henry says.