LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — What will cannabis lounges look like when they start opening in Las Vegas?
“The mystery question,” said consultant Christopher LaPorte. “That is pretty fun.” And while the players are still tight-lipped about what’s in store, the excitement is building as the state cuts off applications.
LaPorte heads up Reset Vegas, the group that’s working with Thrive Cannabis Marketplace to develop one of the many pot lounges that will be popping up in Las Vegas over the next year or so. The high-stakes application process closed on Thursday, Oct. 27. The state charged non-refundable $10,000 fees for applications for independent lounges and $100,000 fees for dispensaries that want to open a lounge. A spokesperson for the state’s Cannabis Compliance Board said the number of applications received will be released on Monday.
Pot lounges will be licensed sites for the legal consumption of cannabis products — a necessity because it’s illegal to consume marijuana in public, in hotel rooms — anyplace besides your own home. All eyes are on Las Vegas for spectacular innovation in the competition to attract tourists and locals to what LaPorte sees simply as a new opportunity.
“Las Vegas is known for reinventing itself,” LaPorte said, adding that Reset Vegas team is very excited to see what these lounges can be.
“The sky’s the limit,” he said.
“And they can be anything,” LaPorte said. “Whether it’s a food and beverage opportunity with infused-cannabis meals so that we can introduce this product to new non-endemic markets, whether it’s a movie theater, whether it’s a bowling alley, whether it’s … any kind of social environment — what I like to call ‘the third place,’ right? First place is home, second place is work. What’s the new third place? That could be cannabis lounges.”
Tourists or locals?
A spokesman for Planet 13, David Farris, said lounges aimed at tourists could be completely over the top. Planet 13 is still working on its plan, Farris said in early October.
Thrive has applied for a retail lounge attached to its store on Sammy Davis Jr. Drive, just behind Resorts World.
Others in the industry believe it’s important to strike a balance between appealing to tourists and the locals market. People envision pot lounges in the same class as hookah lounges, but the exclusive nature of the licenses means competition for customers will be on another level.
LaPorte sees an evolution at hand as businesses treat cannabis customers as a more sophisticated group. He makes comparisons to the wine industry — and notes that cannabis will probably overtake the wine industry in about three years. He also draws comparisons between the pot lounge application process and liquor licenses in other states — the costs may be high, but so are the rewards.
“When I look at liquor licenses in other states — primarily in New York, right, where there’s actually auctions for liquor licenses because they’ve become so invaluable and they’re upwards to $200K for a liquor license in those high-density properties. Liquor licenses aren’t really cheap and cannabis can be that next foray into a new social lubricant of sorts for social venues,” LaPorte said.
He also thinks it’s important not to exclude people who are curious about the products.
Lounges shouldn’t underestimate the value of “social use,” LaPorte said. “For as long as I’ve known, you know — ‘pass the dutchie to the left-hand side,’ right? I mean, we are known as being a socially active group, and so what better way to make Las Vegas another reason to be here? Another destination for this cannabis tourist,” he said.
There’s a lot of money flying around at a time when inflation is on a rampage and there’s talk of a recession. Nevada also reported a drop in cannabis sales over the past year.
But LaPorte isn’t worried.
“I don’t necessarily think there’s a concern in that, let’s just be honest with each other, how much did we really have to do during the COVID period? Of course, there’s probably a lot more liquor and cannabis sales going on when we were all stuck at home. So I don’t necessarily think that there’s a concern that perhaps there was some leveling out,” LaPorte said.
“If I look at the market as a whole, it seems everything has kind of slowed down,” he said. “And I think that like a lot of other industries that Las Vegas is good at, we’re kind of recession-proof.”