Consumption Lounges & Cannabis Hospitality Restaurant Design

Consumption lounges, smokeasys and cannabis cafes have been heating up, becoming more visible and luxury recently. Vegas, Chicago, NewYork are now bucket list locations where you can enjoy the plant in a safe, legal and social setting.

With legislation in many states allowing food to be served in consumption spaces, chefs have blazed onto the scene with great cannabis & food pairings. Innovative recipes using infused oils everything from charcuterie to dessert. Mixologists are shaking up the consumption scene with amazing alcohol-free cannabis infused cocktails as a wonderful alternative to the standard bar. If you’re a foodie and a cannaseur, check out this episode of Broken Bread from Roy Choi. It’s a quick crash history lesson on cannabis, food and legislation in LA.

Herbal Notes (Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago) A multi-course meal and *beverage pairing inspired by and paired with different genetics of cannabis as well as seasonal and local produce with prominent terpene profiles. The dinner highlights the synergy of gastronomy with cannabis to show that the two are medicine, and together can be healing and delicious. “ We aim to depart from the stoner culture surrounding cannabis and destigmatize that which is actually a natural medicine that has the power to holistically transform lives and communities.” It’s a great place in a fun neighborhood to explore the relationship between our favorite plant and our favorite flavors.

A canna friendly restaurant isn’t designed that much differently than a regular restaurant, but consumption lounges face a few additional considerations in the design and planning aspect. It is important to make sure if you’re designing a consumption lounge to have a team that is focused on cannabis and understands not only the compliance issues but the differences in the customer experience as well as the employee’s challenges. A great cannabis interior designer can deliver on all those aspects and marry the hospitality functions with the delicate cannabis specific needs. Here are a few aspects of how they are similar and differ.

Standard “bus stations” used in restaurants and bars still exist, but with some very noteworthy changes and challenges. Frequently, the back of the house brings the smoking equipment to the tables via wheeled carts. This protects the equipment from damage and also keeps it clean in transport. The carts need a loading spot and storage “garage” when not in use. The carts also need a clear path to the back of the house for cleaning & refilling.

There are also things called access zones in a cannabis lounge or smoke-easy. (Not every employee should have access to every area in the lounge.) Unlike a typical restaurant or bar, this is a security issue. You need to restrict access to cash areas as well as your fulfillment area. The customer facing server should have a clear and expected path of travel at all times. Cannabis consumption lounges often adopt a casino-like model when it comes to who can be where.

Smokeasys have notoriously more complicated laws and regulations about what specifically can be consumed, and where. Food or no food, outdoor or indoor. Examples? Edibles indoor, vapes outdoor and bongs in their own separate location with higher than hospital grade air replenishing systems. Each state and city has a unique set of compliance requirements. A great cannabis interior designer will be well versed on the unique challenges but also be able to seamlessly incorporate them into the overall design of the space.

California & Colorado have paved the way for consumption lounges. Recently added to the Consumption safe states are: Nevada, Illinois, New Jersey, and Pennsaylvannia. Our fave consumption lounge happens to be in West Hollywood, which expanded its consumption lounge licensing a few years back. Many fell through, some are still in the works and Lowell Farms & Cannabis Cafe opened in October of 2019.

Lowell Farms; A Cannabis Cafe

We love the serenity and outdoor feel of both spaces under the Lowell Farm brand. Located in West Hollywood, Lowell Farms created an escape for the consumer. A lush, secret-garden retreat that did some creative (yet compliant) space planning to allow the sale of both food and cannabis. West Hollywood’s community and legislative affairs manager, John Leonard talks about how they worked a creative solution to the problem. “Lowell created two separate businesses on two separate premises,” says Leonard. “They’ve segregated their kitchen, and they are preparing food in that kitchen. There’s a separate dining area attached to the kitchen that’s considered a separate business from the cannabis consumption area. With that being said, patrons in the cannabis consumption area are allowed to order food from the adjacent restaurant. And the food from the adjacent restaurant is delivered to the consumption area.”

We love exploring new consumption lounges and restaurants, I’d love to see more with excellent design that immerse the customer in an experience like none other. Have any awesome plans for a new location? Got a vision but need some help ironing out the design details? Call me, I’d love to talk!