Since its recreational legalization in 2012, there has been a fundamental piece missing in Colora- do’s cannabis economy: places to consume weed legally in a setting outside the home. In May of 2019, House Bill 1230 passed, allow- ing businesses to apply for private-consumption licenses and limited
pot sales. Since the bill passed, a small number of cannabis hospitality venues have opened in the city. Tetra Lounge and The Coffee Joint (one a nightclub-esque weed bar, the other a coffee shop that allows vaping in- doors) have both opened successfully—albeit with a lot of red tape.
But one entrepreneur, Arend Richard, is aiming to shake up the cannabis hospitality world with a venue and business model unlike anything in Denver or the U.S. cannabis market. Think bougie cocktail hour set to jazz. Instead of alcohol, you’ll find ele- gant glassware and weed. Enter Cirrus Social Club. Slated to open in 2024, the club’s ambiance is designed to be unlike any- thing that exists anywhere else, says Richard. “It’s sort of eclectic glamor meets Nana, but still lean- ing toward glamorous.”
Nana is Richard’s grandmother. She’s the style and experience gatekeeper. If Nana won’t like it, then Richard won’t do it. “I would say it’s definitely designed for the female gaze,” says Richard. “Our target demographic is women from age 25 to 55 and the people in her life.” While you typically might imagine a cannabis lounge to be dimly lit and leaning towards a party scene (loud music, lights, club aesthetic), Cirrus is the complete opposite, and for a reason.
“Cirrus Social Club is the first of its kind high-end cannabis lounge that caters to getting the greatest number of people to sesh together,” says Richard. “I think that the world would be a much better place if everybody had a little weed every now and then.” To help people learn to, and become comfortable with, consuming canna- bis, you need a welcoming and open environment: plenty of light, flowers, piano, and pastels.
“What I really hope to do is create a space that makes the everyday person, the majority, the mainstream person, want to go and enjoy a cannabis experience,” says Richard.
To simplify it, Cirrus provides the glassware, which Richard calls “Se- shware.” Patrons order a “sesh” with a predeter- mined set of items for their table. Small plates will be available, with predetermined menus catered from local estab- lishments. On Saturday and Sunday, Cirrus plans to serve brunch. As for the weed, “the primary method of consumption at Cirrus will be a dry herb vapor- ization,” says Richard. While they are still sorting out exact details, he predicts that 90% of consumption at Cirrus will be from volcano bags, where patrons don’t smoke but inhale vapor.
“I believe the best way for someone to get high, especially for the first time, is to inhale warm air, THC,” says Richard. “It’s not smoke, but you’re still getting all the ben- efits of the THC.” Glass consumption from bongs and pieces is allowed, as is the consumption of concentrates. No paper (joints, blunts) are per- mitted. The main canna- bis menu will include two low-THC strains. “Weed loves to be around beauty,” says Rich- ard. “So, while you inhale, there’s the sounds of a custom-painted Steinway and Sons piano that is playing itself to jazz and oldie music. There are lots of textures and colors to greet the eye.”
Richard has been in the cannabis world for over a decade. In 2017, he embarked on the business side of things, starting a popular YouTube channel where he taught folks to smoke and enjoy canna- bis. After his channel and a slew of other cannabis influencers were deleted from the site by YouTube. in 2018, Richard began WeedTube. It is what it sounds like, a video plat- form and social media site that garnered 6 million users while Richard was its CEO. In 2022, he left to launch Cirrus.
“I have been in the cannabis world for a long time, and it has changed my life entirely. I think that it opened my mind. It made me a more em- pathetic human being,” says Richard.
Queer and cannabis
As a gay man, Richard reckons with the canna- bis industry’s shortcom- ings. “It is very much a heteronormative sort of industry,” he says. “I’ve always felt like the token gay person in a space.”
Now, with Cirrus, Richard has begun to feel more seen. “People from Colorado are com- ing into my home from the private sessions to get a glimpse into what we’re doing. It’s almost like they see me now due to the contribution that I’m making, which I think is really lovely.” Richard has con- tinuously pushed for this kind of inclusion and recognition for queer people and the LGBTQIA+ community in the cannabis space. In 2018, he co-hosted the Glitter Bong Bash event at the Tetra Lounge. The two-time event was an LGBTQIA+ smoke sesh, which set a record for at- tendance at the lounge. “It was incredible, uplifting, and wonder- ful,” says Richard. “But again, those two events for queer people are the only two that I’ve ever been to, and I put them on. They both sold out, but nobody else is put- ting on events or spaces really for that, that I was ever a part of.”
Cirrus is aiming to change all of that. “This space is being created and built with empha- sis that it is safe,” says Richard. “It’s meant to feel comfortable. It’s meant to feel like a place you could go with your Nana and maybe have a conversation about your identity that you’ve never had before.”
Staying on schedule
Ambitions aside, road- blocks are inevitable for any new venue. Since beginning the project, Richard says the budget has doubled. Ventilation requirements are strict for cannabis establish- ments, which has slowed down work and raised costs. Still, the Cirrus team continues to move forward and plans to open on schedule. The establishment has its state and city license pending final approval after a building inspec- tion, and its health plan permit has been okayed.
Cirrus will initially open on Thursday, Fri- day, and Saturday nights. They will be open for tea and brunch on Saturday and Sunday. Membership options will be avail- able, but membership is not required to enter. Members will get access to a specialized menu with a wider selection of cannabis offerings, members-only glasses, and priority reservations for events.
“Our business model is different than any- thing that exists in this space right now,” says Richard. “Cirrus is a place for the everyday average person who doesn’t usually smoke weed to come and enjoy cannabis socially. It is a place to go for date night. It is a place to go celebrate something with your friends. It’s a place to have a different kind of conversation on a Friday night than you normally would.”
“It’s meant to feel comfortable. It’s meant to feel like a place you could go with your Nana and maybe have a conversation about your identity that you’ve never had before.” —Arend Richard