When Denverite Arend Richard looks at the local and national landscape for cannabis lounges, he sees a homogenous smattering of spaces designed for men. That’s why when Richard opens his own hospitality establishment this fall, the aesthetic and amenities will be specifically curated to attract women and gay individuals, as well as the canna-curious looking for a comfortable environment where they can try some of Colorado’s locally grown herb.
Cirrus Social Club, opening at 3200 E. Colfax Ave., combines Richard’s experiences teaching people to smoke weed on YouTube under the moniker The Gay Stoner and working in high-end restaurants. And the way he describes it, the 420-friendly lounge is posed to be unlike anything else in Denver with lavish decor, custom furniture and florals, and a pink Steinway & Sons player piano to help set the ambiance.
Think of the aesthetic as the “Ritz Carlton of the cannabis industry,” he said. The club will offer a tea service during the day and shared plates at night, both of which come with “seshware” like bongs and volcano vaporizers served tableside.
“I love cannabis, I love everything about the plant,” he said. “But my one true love and my one true specialty has always been getting people high and making sure they have a great time.”
Cirrus Social Club will be among the first marijuana hospitality lounges to open in Denver and while patrons will not be able to purchase cannabis products there (you bring your own), they can receive a discount on their check by shopping at one of Cirrus’ partner dispensaries. (His partners are TBA, Richard said.)
While Cirrus Social Club isn’t expected to open until September, a recent pop-up he held in Los Angeles offers some insight into what’s to come. Cirrus Social Club’s 4/20 High Tea welcomed cannabis enthusiasts to enjoy finger foods while puffing on bongs and vapor bags. The place was glamorously adorned with pink, white and yellow flowers, long colorful candlesticks, stemware and artisanal-looking china.
Locals can expect the vibe to be similar at Cirrus Social Club permanent home in Denver. The 1930s building will feature a communal lounge with personal living room spaces around the edges that fit up to six people, Richard said. One of the walls will feature a big bar, but instead of displaying liquor, it will display handblown glass smoking pieces, including several Cirrus has custom-made for its brand.
The lounge’s centerpiece will be a 10-foot floral arrangement overflowing with flowers like a fountain, Richard said. He’s working with floral designer Conner Nesbit, who recently won the HBO competition series “Full Bloom,” to bring his vision to life.
Additionally, Cirrus Social Club will have a private room that holds up to 12 guests and another 3,000-square-foot ballroom, deemed the Rose Room, where Richard anticipates booking private events and hosting vendor pop-ups.
“I am pretty uncompromising in bringing something beautiful to the world. It’s not just trying to develop a beautiful business for the cannabis industry, I’m trying to take over social nightlife,” Richard said. “I’m literally trying to convince the world there’s an alternative to alcohol and socialization, and it’s a better one.”
Cirrus Social Club will offer high tea service from 11 a.m. to 4:20 p.m. daily, during which time guests can sample three teas and then choose one to pair with snacks like scones and miniature sandwiches, including a peanut butter-and-jelly-and-Cheetos sandwich – one of Richard’s original recipes he invented when he was a kid. After 4:20 p.m., the lounge will offer snack and seshware pairings in three tiers. (Seshware is a term Richard coined to describe the tools used for a smoking session, akin to dinnerware or flatware.)
The first tier is expected to include one shared plate and access to one volcano or bong, including PuffCo products for patrons who bring concentrate. The middle tier includes two shared plates, plus chocolate fondue for dessert, and access to two pieces of seshware. And the top tier features the same food offerings plus access to Cirrus’ premium glassware collection with pieces exceeding $1,000 each.
Instead of paying a cover, patrons pay a flat fee for the experience they want and close out at the end of their session. Cirrus Social Club will not permit smoking joints or blunts, but will allow flower for smoking in pipes and bongs.
If a lot of this plan sounds like a dance club, Richard assures there will be no dress code. And while Cirrus Social Club will be a safe space for LGBTQ+ locals, it’s not billed as a gay club.
“I want everyone and their mother – literally their mother – to come be able to experience and I want them to come as they are,” Richard said. “As a gay business owner, as a person with a team led mostly by women and queer people, we understand what being judged is like and we want every single person who walks through the door to feel very much embraced however you come.”
Richard and his partners are currently in the midst of a $3.5 million build out to bring Cirrus Social Club’s historic building up to the cannabis hospitality code in hopes of opening in late September. Until then, Cirrus will be hosting pop-ups in other states where marijuana is legal to build hype. Eventually, Richard wants to expand the brand beyond Denver, too.
Cirrus Social Club joins JAD’s Mile High Smoke, Tetra Lounge and The Coffee Joint in allowing locals and tourists access to a public place where they can smoke weed. (Tetra Lounge is currently closed to upgrade its ventilation system to permit smoking inside) Bed-and-breakfast The Patterson Inn is also in the midst of building an onsite cannabis lounge.
Other hospitality companies are also popping up in Denver, such as The Cannabis Experience tour bus, which takes patrons toking tours around the city.
The city of Denver is issuing new marijuana business licenses exclusively to social equity applicants, meaning folks who have been directly impacted by a marijuana arrest or conviction; individuals who have lived in an economic opportunity zone for at least 15 years between 1980 and 2010; or those whose household income falls 50% below the state median.
Richard previously co-founded and co-owned WeedTube, one of the largest social networking platforms for the marijuana community, which registered significant losses during the pandemic before folding permanently earlier this year. Richard qualified under the social equity income stipulation.