Legal cannabis is still a draw for tourists, but local consumption laws still prevent most hotels from explicitly allowing guests to consume it on their property. That could change in coming months, however, as Denver adopts looser pot hospitality regulations — and Chris Chiari can't wait.
The owner of the Patterson Inn, a boutique hotel in an old mansion at 420 East Eleventh Avenue, has been trying to turn the place into a cannabis-friendly hotel since he bought it in 2018. But his vision extends far beyond Denver: Chiari recently registered 420 Hotels Inc. in Nevada, and says he has "several exciting things to share over the next couple of months" as he looks to expand in other states.
Westword: Where does your journey with the Patterson Inn start?
Chris Chiari: I tried to buy the Patterson after flying into Denver in March 2011. My very first moment looking at the house that night on March 7, 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 f-ing grass."
I was beat to [buying] the house by two weeks in 2011, but I did create my brand King of Quality, and that was inspired by the house. That was sort of my start into cannabis branding and hospitality. In a private way, I'd have some events in my home. I never charged for it, but I'd have some infused dinners or host bands, cannabis-friendly.
I closed on purchasing the property on May 31, 2018. The renovations were already done, so what I went on to buy was an open, operating, five-and-a-half-year-old boutique hotel, which I've been working to elevate and execute since. We're delivering a high standard of breakfast, and everyone loves our mattress. I can't deny that I've dreamt since day one of attaching a fully licensed cannabis consumption lounge to this property. I don't know if that will happen, but without question, this property and the address at 420 is the inspiration.
So the Patterson might not be part of 420 Hotels Inc.?
It's the inspiration, but we're still evolving what I'm trying to do, which is what cannabis-consumption-only hospitality looks like attached to an overnight hotel. With the upcoming local rule changes...to be honest, I still have a hurdle here at the Patterson Inn with zoning, which I am in the process of looking to change. And then, of course, there is community engagement. I don't want to speak on behalf of the community and say they're ready for this and ready to embrace it, but I do feel very comfortable based on my engagement so far in saying that we could be ready. That's up to the Capitol Hill neighbors to ultimately chime in on, and it's a process I look forward to starting as soon as I can.
Since it's your hotel, why not just allow your guests to do what they please in the privacy of their rooms?
That's playing in a gray area, and I've got a lot of respect for what it looks like to do this with a license. I'm very strict and specific with what guests can and cannot do on my property, because I'm working diligently for the privilege of owning a cannabis consumption lounge attached to a hotel. I still see this as a privilege.
Originally, under the Clean Indoor Air Act, I could respect decisions to vape, because that used to be covered under the Clean Indoor Air Act. But that's changed since 2019, and [vaping] can't be done inside. Now, I do have two rooms with private patios. I respect guests' private use of those rooms, as long as they don't break the law on their patios. I don't consider smoking a cigarette or cannabis on a private patio as doing something illegal. You can't light anything inside my property, though. It's 130 years old.
What did you think of Denver's new social consumption rules? Do you see more opportunity there?
I don't want to question or challenge other business models, but in my ten years around focusing a career toward adult-use cannabis consumption, I don't think there are too many models where a standalone business selling cannabis consumption like a bar plays out. My goal isn't to make cannabis a revenue generator; I'm looking to add it as an amenity 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 per day interested in smoking cannabis at their hotel or if there are 100 — but if there are just three or four more, that takes my current business and turns it into something very successful.
What would you prefer cannabis consumption at a hotel to look like?
Frequent consumers all have a comfort zone with consuming and interacting with other parts of our lives, but for tourists and novice consumers, they're predominantly consuming on a Saturday night at home, watching TV. If I could get to a point of allowing guests to vape in their rooms, I'd welcome that. But as far as lighting a joint, I'd prefer to see that in a lounge or on a patio, because there's a need to clean out and circulate the air and keep a clean environment where people are sleeping. That's what we're still trying to figure out, though: What does this look like?
Where else are you looking to open a cannabis-friendly hotel?
I am in conversations with two other states and am actively looking for properties. I'm talking with some acquaintances in the scaled franchised space and looking into corporate structure. My ultimate intention with this was always a public venture, and I'm actively working toward what could be a crowdfunding and private placement in the very near future.
The only community that has facilitated a path right now is Illinois and the city of Chicago, so we are dipping our toes and looking at properties in the Chicago market.
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