Pot hospitality arrives in Denver — is Fort Collins next?


Collegian | Tri Duong

Dewayne Benjamin, owner of Tetra Private Lounge and Garden, welcomes the arrival of Mayor Michael Hancock just after Gov. Jared Polis left the scene in Denver March 30. They were discussing the preparation for Hancock’s speech upon the social equity of Black-owned cannabis businesses.

Hayden Hawley, Cannabis Director

Gov. Jared Polis joined the ceremonial ribbon cutting of Colorado’s first licensed cannabis consumption lounge last Wednesday.

Tetra Private Lounge and Garden, located in Denver’s River North Art District, held the ceremony March 30. Visitors have been bringing their own cannabis and lighting up since 2018, though the business had to operate as a members-only club. Tetra Lounge hopes to open its doors to the over 21 public by April 20 after passing regular building inspections.


“It’s really exciting to see that spirit of entrepreneurship, that can-do attitude, that frontier spirit,” Polis said in a brief speech. “I’m really excited to cut the ribbon today for one of Colorado’s newest businesses and the nation’s first. So congratulations to each and every one of you.”

This comes as Denver is approving a handful of consumption licenses, including a smoking lounge in the Patterson Inn. Dozens of people showed up in support of Tetra Lounge’s push into legitimacy, representing local cannabis professionals, members of the press and government officials. The word on everybody’s lips: history.

“We have members from every state in America, and we’ve had visitors and members from 14 different countries around the world,” said Dewayne Benjamin, the lounge’s owner and operator. “You can buy cannabis at every corner. Being a tourist or someone who’s not from here, that first question is, ‘Where can I smoke this?’ and Tetra was just to fill that gap.”

The irony of Colorado’s legal cannabis market is not lost on people — a person visiting from another country or prohibition state who purchases cannabis for the novelty can’t, if they’re staying in a regular hotel, legally use it almost anywhere — until now.

“I think my main goal is just treat people with the utmost respect and really cultivate growth and happiness and peace.” -Dewayne Benjamin, Tetra Lounge owner

The lounge is outfitted with a snack bar, framed photographs of cannabis cultural icons, video games and a pleasantly secluded back patio and garden. Winston Connor III, Tetra’s first-ever member, said the place has come a long way in the past four years, upgrading from lawn chairs and gravel to comfortable, vibe-fitting furniture.

Far from just being a place where tourists can legally indulge in cannabis, many attendees characterized the lounge as a vital nerve center for local professionals and artists.

Street artists RubeZilla and Chelsea Lewinski said Benjamin commissioned their services for the lounge, immensely boosting their careers in the local scene. Others said he had “completely ruined (them) for nightclubs.”

“I think my main goal is just treat people with the utmost respect and really cultivate growth and happiness and peace,” Benjamin said.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock arrived at the event after Polis left and congratulated Benjamin and the Tetra team. He made a few remarks on the social equity initiatives the city is prioritizing for the future of the cannabis industry.

As we went around and started seeing, of course, the marijuana industry and marketplace take off, one of the challenging and painful moments is the fact that it wasn’t a very equitable industry,” Hancock said. “If you look up even today, more than 99% of all operations are owned by white men.”

Beyond providing a place to legally smoke pre-purchased pot in public, the energy and excitement around Tetra Lounge makes it more than just a modern-day hookah bar or club alternative and rather the next vital step toward social and legal acceptance of cannabis use.

The question you may be asking: When, if ever, are cannabis lounges going to pop up in Fort Collins?

Ginny Sawyer, project and policy manager for the City of Fort Collins, reiterated that despite the City’s option to issue licenses, there has not been an overwhelming interest from community stakeholders in consumption areas, and issuing licenses for a new type of business could be tampering with a delicate political situation.

“We do have a philosophy and a value of engaging the public whenever we make big changes like that, so it’s not something that we would do without doing some larger public outreach,” Sawyer said. “We put a lot of time and effort into the current regulations, and I feel like they’re working well. We have good business owners, our enforcement officer has good relationships with them and we don’t see a lot of violations, so we kind of feel like we’ve had a bit of a sweet spot with our regulations here in town.”

Until such a day comes, cannabis users can get their kicks down in RiNo.

Reach Hayden Hawley at cannabis@collegian.com or on Twitter @hateonhawley.