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Legal cannabis is still a tourist draw, but local consumption laws still prevent most hotels from specifically allowing guests to consume it on their property. That could change in the coming months, however, as Denver adopts stricter rules on potty hospitality – and Chris Chiari can’t wait.
The owner of the Patterson Inn, a boutique hotel in an old mansion on 420 East Eleventh Avenue, has been trying to convert the hotel into a cannabis-friendly hotel since its purchase in 2018. His vision extends well beyond Denver, however: Chiari recently registered 420 Hotels Inc. in Nevada and says he has “some exciting things to share over the next few months” while expanding into other states.
Westword: Where Does Your Journey Start With The Patterson Inn?
Chris Chiari: I tried to buy the Patterson after flying to Denver in March 2011. When I first looked at the house that evening on March 7th, I said I wanted to turn it into a marijuana bed and breakfast. I still say to this day that the ghost of Katherine Patterson whispered in my ear, “Get off the grass.”
I was beaten [buying] the house around two weeks in 2011 but I created my King of Quality brand and that was inspired by the house. That was kind of an introduction to cannabis branding and hospitality. In a private way, I would have some events in my house. I never billed for it, but I could have a couple of dinners or host bands that are cannabis friendly.
I completed the purchase of the property on May 31, 2018. The renovation work had already been completed. So I bought an open, operational, five and a half year old boutique hotel that I’ve been working to raise and run ever since. We deliver a high standard of breakfast and everyone loves our mattress. I cannot deny that from day one I have dreamed of adding a fully licensed cannabis use lounge to this property. I don’t know if that will happen, but there is no question that this property and the address at 420 is the inspiration.
So the Patterson may not be part of 420 Hotels Inc.?
It’s the inspiration, but we’re still developing what I’m trying to do. This is what hospitality looks like only with cannabis use associated with an overnight hotel. With the changes in local rules imminent … to be honest, I still have one hurdle with zoning here at the Patterson Inn that I am about to change. And then of course there is engagement in the community. I don’t want to speak on behalf of the community and say that they are ready and willing to accept it, but I feel very comfortable saying that we might be ready because of my commitment so far. It’s up to the Capitol Hill neighbors to tune in in the end, and I look forward to getting started as soon as possible.
Since it’s your hotel, you can allow your guests to do what they want in the privacy of their rooms.
It plays in a gray area and I have a lot of respect for what it looks like to do this with a license. I’m very strict about what guests can and can’t do on my property because I work diligently for the privilege of owning a cannabis consumption lounge attached to a hotel. I still see this as a privilege.
Originally, I was able to respect decisions about vape under the Clean Indoor Air Act, as this was previously regulated under the Clean Indoor Air Act. But that has changed since 2019, and [vaping] cannot be done inside. I now have two rooms with private terraces. I respect the private use of these rooms by guests as long as they don’t break the law on their terraces. I don’t consider smoking a cigarette or cannabis on a private patio to be illegal. However, you cannot set anything on fire in my property. It’s 130 years old.
What did you think of the new Denver social consumption rules? Do you see more opportunities there?
I don’t want to question or question other business models, but in my decade focusing on adult cannabis use, I don’t think there are too many models where a stand-alone company like cannabis use sells a bar, plays out. My goal is not to make cannabis a top seller. I want to add it as a convenience to promote and complement something I’m already doing well, which is overnight hospitality. I don’t know if there are twenty people coming here a day interested in smoking cannabis in their hotel, or 100 – but if there are only three or four it will take my current business and make it something very successful.
How would you prefer cannabis use in a hotel?
Heavy consumers all have a comfort zone in which they consume and interact with other parts of our lives. For tourists and inexperienced consumers, however, they mostly consume on a Saturday evening at home and watch TV. If I could make guests vape in their rooms, I’d appreciate that. But as for lighting a joint, I’d rather see it in a lounge or on a patio as the air needs to be purified and circulated and there is a clean environment for people to sleep in. But we’re still trying to find out: What does it look like?
Where else would you like to open a cannabis-friendly hotel?
I am in talks with two other states and am actively looking for real estate. I speak to some friends in the scaled franchise area and examine the corporate structure. My ultimate intention in doing this has always been a public endeavor, and I am actively working on what could be crowdfunding and private placement in the near future.
The only community that has currently made a way easier is Illinois and the city of Chicago. So we dip our toes and look at properties in the Chicago market.
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Thomas Mitchell has been writing about everything cannabis-related for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate, and general news en route to publications like the Republic of Arizona, Inman, and Fox Sports. He is currently the cannabis editor for westword.com.