Coffee Shop May Become Colorado's First Public-Use Pot Business

By Paul Gaita 12/14/17

The business proprietors want to give patrons ages 21 and older the option to safely consume edibles or vape inside the shop.

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Friends hanging out in a coffee shop.

The owners of a proposed coffee shop in Denver, Colorado are hoping to make their new establishment the first business in the city to allow on-site use of marijuana.

Proprietor Rita Tsalyuk has filed an application to open what is described in a feature by KUSA's 9News as a traditional coffee shop—named appropriately enough, "The Coffee Joint"—that would, upon possible approval of a special license, also allow customers to consume marijuana on the premises.

Under current law, the shop will not be allowed to sell marijuana, which has sparked concern among opponents who fear that the owners will not be able to control the potency of product brought by patrons.

Tsalyuk said that the latter problem is actually not a concern for her store, since she and her husband own a licensed dispensary located next door to the proposed shop. Their business plan, according to 9News, would be to allow customers to purchase marijuana at the dispensary and then consume it—along with a cup of coffee—in the shop.

Since the shop does not have an outdoor patio, customers would only be allowed to consume edibles or use vaporizers, per the provisions of the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act. Tsalyuk said that she hopes to be able to rent out such paraphernalia, pending licensing approval. 

As for concerns over customer behavior, the proprietors said that employees would be trained to identify when a patron may have overindulged. "The patron will be asked to, politely, leave, and possibly given some options to get home," co-owner Kirill Merkulov said. That assurance, however, does not appear to be enough to quell worries from Rachel O'Bryan, who co-founded Smart Colorado, an organization formed after the passage of Colorado's legalization act, Amendment 64.

"I think there is a risk when businesses don't really control the product their customers are consuming on site," O'Bryan noted, though she was pleased to note that The Coffee Joint plans to allow only patrons 21 years of age or older. The proposed business does have the support of the La Alma-Lincoln Park Neighborhood Association, which is sponsoring the application.

"I think the way the business is being structured, I think it's neighborhood-friendly," association representative Aubrey Lavizzio said.

9News stated that the city's licensing department will set a public hearing on the application at some point in the next two to three months, which would be followed by inspections prior to possible approval.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites. 

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