Cannabis users in southern Illinois will be able to legally smoke in public starting Saturday, July 10th, in a lounge built precisely for that purpose in Sesser.
There have been discussions in Chicago and all over the state about opening consumption spaces — and a tobacco hookah lounge in DeKalb recently began allowing marijuana smokers.
But a lounge targeted for cannabis specifically is a first.
A place to smoke weed in, like a bar without alcohol
A remodeled former bank in the tiny downstate city of Sesser will become a first of its kind business, according to its owner, Holly Roeder. Even though her business idea was the subject of a local election battle fought over allowing a gathering place for marijuana users, she hopes both locals and visitors will support her new venture, The Luna Lounge.
“We’re providing a place to smoke cannabis, just like a bar — but with no alcohol,” Roeder said.
Luna customers will pay a $4.20 entry fee and may buy CBD, pipes and rolling papers and rent bongs out of the old bank vault. The lounge will provide entertainment, with bands, a fire eater and a tarot card reader for opening night, and comedians on other nights, plus video, cards and board games. The lounge cannot serve alcohol or food, but on opening night the block outside will be shut down for entertainment and a food truck.
Customers have to bring their own pot
Luna Lounge’s owner is not new to the cannabis industry, having worked 10 years as a dispensary manager and a cannabis chemist in California. Roeder also applied for a license to infuse edibles with cannabis, but she had to wait over a year for the state to award those licenses after many delays.
Roeder has renovated the former bank in what she describes as a mashup of Roaring ’20s vintage style, dark colors and funky accents of leopard print, velvet and damask. The Luna Lounge and Aroma’s Hookah Bar in DeKalb are not licensed to sell marijuana, so customers must bring their own legally purchased weed. They still have to observe state laws requiring cannabis to be in a sealed container from a dispensary, and may still be arrested for driving while impaired.
The new venture met some opposition, but there are hopes for the future
Sesser is situated about 300 miles south of Chicago, near Rend Lake off I-57, and has a population of about 1,900. The new venture has not been unanimously embraced, but the Sesser City Council approved allowing the business on a 4-2 vote last year. The city even provided a $7,500 grant from downtown property taxes to help make the space accessible for people with disabilities.
The business met some opposition. A group of eight local church pastors signed a letter opposing the lounge, worried that it would promote drug use. It even was a part of the electoral debate, since a conservative candidate ran for mayor to shut it down. Incumbent Mayor Jason Ashmore won the April election with 72% of the vote however, and he says the new business is hopefully good for the town development.
“The feedback we’ve gotten has been overwhelmingly positive,” the mayor said. “I don’t partake, but just like every new business, I’m going to show up and show my support. I hope they have a domino effect and bring in tourism for other businesses. We’re hoping it will help Sesser grow.”
Legalization of cannabis already has an impact on the local housing market
And growth is all Illinois businesses are hoping to get from legalizing cannabis consumption. The new world of cannabis tourism has taken Illinois by storm since pot was legalized in the state on January 1 2020, encouraging some who have never previously touched marijuana or experienced CBD oil, to give weed a try.
The state law that legalized cannabis last year prohibits consumption in public, including in motor vehicles and parks. Smoking in one’s home is allowed, but a landlord or business may prohibit it, and the government bans it in all its buildings, including public housing. In consequence, many renters and visitors from out of state, in particular, are left with no options to smoke legally. So options need to be made available, especially since legalizing marijuana has already had an impact on the housing market. A report from the National Association of Realtors®(NAR®) reads: “The legalization of marijuana has started to impact the real estate industry. Commercial practitioners are finding increased demand for land, warehouses, and storefronts for marijuana.”
Other businesses are adjusting to profit from the product
The housing market is not the only one that felt the impact, many businesses have thought of ways to adapt to the new reality and cash in on the weed dream. Marijuana buses have been introduced to Chicago to give residents the chance to learn how to roll a joint and smoke a bong. Loopr now runs tours transporting a limo bus full of weed-curious Chicago residents through downtown for a night of pot education. The tours do not offer alcohol and ask passengers to bring their own weed.
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