After two years of looking at about 50 locations for their business and talking to 17 neighborhood organizations, mother-and-son duo Megan Lumpkins and Taylor Rosean are opening Denver’s second legal cannabis consumption business: The pair estimates Vape and Play at 1753 S. Broadway will open by the end of the year.
The neighborhood organizations “in one little way or another helped us fine-tune the customer-, neighborhood safety-approach business model that we have,” Lumpkins said.
Vape and Play will have a salon-style area where people can consume their own cannabis via a patent-pending vaporizer that was designed by the company, Rosean said. City rules behind the consumption license state that the business cannot sell cannabis, so all customers must bring in their own from a dispensary.
From there, Vape and Play will have a lounge area for customers where they can watch TV, sit with friends or play board games. The business also plans to bring in entertainment options such as comedians, fitness classes, seminars and more.
The pair are hoping to have a soft opening in November for people within the cannabis industry. The soft opening will allow Lumpkins and Rosean to make sure things run smoothly, Rosean said. Vape and Play will then fully open by the end of the year.
Educating the community
Rosean said he hopes to reach all corners of the diverse cannabis community. He is also hoping to show neighbors that the stereotype of stoners is not what this business is about.
“The cannabis community isn’t a bunch of bums and schmucks,” Rosean said. “I think about cultured and open adults experiencing social events together.”
The idea behind Vape and Play started with the passing of Initiative 300 in Denver in 2016. The initiative allowed for cannabis to be consumed within a licensed business location in the city of Denver as long as it complied with several rules, such as the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act which prohibits indoor smoking.
After the initiative passed, Rosean became more involved in the legislative process, learning how to apply for a license and how the businesses would work. A large part of getting approval for Vape and Play was educating the community on what a social consumption license meant. Many of the people they spoke with did not know what the license was, or that neighboring residents had so much say in the business, Rosean said.
“Often, (neighbors) are unaware of their very own power in this whole play of business,” he said.
Amy Razzaque, co-president of the Overland Park Neighborhood Association, said Lumpkins and Rosean have been attending monthly meetings as well as neighborhood events to build trust with the community. She added that both were receptive to residents’ concerns such as smell, crowds and people driving after consuming marijuana.
Having owners that were open and receptive was especially important because social consumption businesses are “uncharted territory,” she said.
“They’ve been pretty transparent throughout,” Razzaque said. “It just allows neighbors to have one-on-one time to chat and also develop some trust.”
The neighborhood will continue working with Vape and Play once the business opens, Razzaque said.
The search for space
Because so little was known about the license, it was a challenge to find a space that complied with the rules, as well as a spot that would be welcomed by the community.
Lumpkins said she created a mapping system that would show if a location up for sale or rent was compliant, meaning it was not located near schools, child-care businesses, alcohol or drug treatment facilities or city-owned recreation centers and pools. Once they determined a spot was good to go, Lumpkins would start making inquiries. The pair also wanted to find a spot that was accessible for patrons.
South Broadway is a welcoming area for cannabis businesses, Lumpkins said. This particular stretch of the street has become known as the “Green Mile,” with more than 15 dispensaries.
Finding funding for Vape and Play was also a challenge. Rosean said the pair attempted to crowdfund the business through Indiegogo, and tried to get outside investors through MJ Biz Con, a convention specifically for cannabis business. Neither was successful. The pair decided to bootstrap about $500,000 from family and friends to get the business running.
“It’s tough out there,” Lumpkins said. “This is a first. Nobody knows what this looks like.”
As an entrepreneur and former dispensary employee, Rosean said the consumption business is the most approachable model for people just getting started in the industry. Many cities have caps on how many grow and dispensary licenses they allow. Dispensary license fees for the city of Denver are also pricey. A recreation license in Denver costs $2,500 for a new retail license plus a $5,000 application fee. The costs can increase depending on cultivation licensing and if a store is also adding a medical license. Renewal fees for retail stores are $5,000 annually. Medical licenses cost $5,000 for the application and license and $3,000 to renew.
For social consumptions business on the other hand, it costs $2,000 for the application and license fee. There is also not as much startup cost behind the business since the business does not need the space and equipment to grow and sell marijuana.
Moving forward, Lumpkins said she hopes to be an example for other businesses looking to enter the social consumption market. Navigating a new market has not been easy. But after two years of work, they are ready to open up shop.
“We’re, first of all, excited to be open. That really cannot be understated,” Rosean said. “To be here at all is just surreal.”
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