San Francisco is already known for its lively bar scene and now it has some new competition. Cannabis dispensaries are opening pot lounges, where people can buy weed and smoke it, too.
From the outside, the Barbary Coast Collective looks like a trendy bar — inside, it’s a throwback to San Francisco’s Wild West past.
There’s no food, and it is illegal to sell alcohol. Patrons here are smoking weed, and they are coming in droves as dispensaries look for new ways to attract customers.
Barbary Coast customer Amy Lee Andres said, “It allows for people to just come in and enjoy themselves, and be themselves, and not have to worry about hiding or being in the shadows.”
The Barbary Coast opened in 2013 as a medical cannabis dispensary. It is now open to anyone over 21 years old.
Business is booming.
“I think what recreation has done is just open the door for more people to come in and have this experience,” said Barbary Coast Executive Director Jesse Henry.
California is expected to rack up $5 billion in pot sales this year.
“When you walk into this place, we want you to feel like you are walking into a hotel, like you are coming to a nice restaurant, and have that same good experience and good customer service,” said Henry.
The lounge is located near the Moscone Convention Center and Union Square, appealing to locals and tourists from around the world.
Ahmed Hussein traveled to see the Barbary Coast from Egypt. “It’s illegal to smoke weed in Egypt. I like it… everything here is new and nice,” said Hussein.
Gurmeher Rehki is from India. He made it a point of stopping by for a smoke, spending hours enjoying the lounge. “You know, I never thought I would be able to see this in my lifetime,” said Rehki.
Lounges like this one have been popular in Amsterdam since the 1970s. San Francisco dispensaries are hoping to be just as popular in the United States.
The city was among the first in the state to allow for what basically amounts to a cigar bar for cannabis. Specially designed vents are required to keep the air clean and circulating.
Just around the corner from the Barbary Coast, The Bloom Room probably most closely resembles Amsterdam’s infamous “coffee shops” known for selling weed, not actual coffee.
After registering, customers can consult a bud-tender and take their pick from different strains of weed. “We have a full vapor lounger here where members are invited to use our volcano vaporizers. We also have a dab bar here during our dab bar hours… it is just kind of a safe place to medicate. All members are welcome without a purchase necessary,” said the Bloom Room’s Stephen Rechif.
At Urban Pharm on 10th Street, there’s is a “steam punk” vibe and they are “yucking” it up – with comedy night’s every week in their “Giddy-Up Lounge.”
“Every day, we get a new wave of customers that have been in a dispensary and I feel like now that the kind of taboo is being lifted, you know there’s a lot of opportunity,” said Andrew Garcia of Urban Pharm SF.
An opportunity that now has a global reach — people like Gurmeher Rehki crossed the globe to smoke cannabis.
“For me, sitting here in San Francisco, smoking a joint, this is like an achievement, said Rehki.
And for some…a whole new reason to visit.