First business where Denverites could legally consume weed has a hearing Friday — many others will watch closely

The Coffee Joint is the furthest along in the city of Denver’s pilot process for licensing businesses and events to allow adults to consume marijuana in a public setting.

The Coffee Joint owner Rita Tsalyuk sits in the middle of her shop next to I-25 in Lincoln Park, Feb. 6, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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The Coffee Joint owner Rita Tsalyuk sits in the middle of her shop next to I-25 in Lincoln Park, Feb. 6, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) lincoln park; denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty; social consumption; marijuana; coffee shop;
The Coffee Joint owner Rita Tsalyuk sits in the middle of her shop at 1130 Yuma Court in Lincoln Park, Feb. 6, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A Denver cannabis dispensary owner hopes to make history in coming weeks with the first business where it’s legal for customers to consume marijuana.

Rita Tsalyuk and her business partner, Kirill Merkulov, plan to call the cannabis consumption establishment, near downtown Denver, The Coffee Joint. “Pun intended,” Tsalyuk said.

The Coffee Joint is the furthest along in the city of Denver’s pilot process for licensing businesses and events to allow adults to consume marijuana in a public setting. The company is set to go before a public hearing Friday afternoon and could be up and running as early as spring.

Tsalyuk is hoping to open the coffee shop next door to 1136 Yuma — the dispensary her partner and husband own. The property, passed daily by thousands of cars on Interstate 25, is in an industrial area in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Nearby, Atlas Metal & Iron Corp. is recycling scrap metal and Dazbog Coffee Co. is managing its franchises.

The Coffee Joint next to I-25 in Lincoln Park, Feb. 6, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) lincoln park; denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty; social consumption; marijuana; coffee shop;
The Coffee Joint at 1130 Yuma Court next to Interstate 25 in Lincoln Park, Feb. 6, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Tsalyuk said she hopes The Coffee Joint helps advance the cannabis movement, shedding the need to use the drug illegally in public open areas and educating people about the substance. She plans to sell tea, coffee and snacks to customers and charge a nominal fee for people to enter. The space will also be available for trainings, product demonstrations, classes, yoga and other activities, she said.

Others in the industry will be watching how Tsalyuk and Merkulov navigate the rules and regulations for cannabis consumption spots. Some complain that the rules established last summer create too many barriers for businesses who want to give the Neighborhood-Supported Cannabis Consumption Pilot Program a shot.

In 2016, Denver voted to put the program in place until 2020, at which time it can be extended, become permanent or fade out altogether. To comply with state laws and rules, city officials decided consumption areas cannot sell marijuana, no smoking of any kind is allowed and alcohol cannot be sold or consumed on these premises.

The Coffee Joint next to I-25 in Lincoln Park, Feb. 6, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) lincoln park; denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty; social consumption; marijuana; coffee shop;
The Coffee Joint next to Interstate 25 in Lincoln Park, Feb. 6, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

As of Wednesday morning, The Coffee Joint is the only applicant for a cannabis consumption establishment license, according to the city of Denver. The business’s hearing is set for 1:30 p.m. Friday in the Wellington Webb Municipal Building.

“This is similar to liquor license or marijuana store hearing; the applicant needs to show its business is needed and desired by the community. The hearing officer will then make a recommendation to the department,” said Dan Rowland, spokesman for the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses.

The bookstore Mutiny Information Cafe, on South Broadway, previously expressed interest in pursuing a license. And on Wednesday, Utopia All Natural Wellness Spa LLC sent a release announcing it planned to try and be the nation’s first legal cannabis spa.

Utopia leased the historic Creswell Mansion at 1244 Grant St., just two blocks from the Colorado State Capitol. The company plans to use a private member model to offer cannabis-infused massages, ganja yoga and other cannabis-friendly activities to patrons 21 and older. The company also plans to feature a retail area for hemp products, natural health and beauty products, supplements and cosmetics.

“Utopia is committed to being a good neighbor and valuable addition to the community. We are looking forward to opening our doors, not just to cannabis consumers, but all adults interested in natural self-care and making healthy changes to their lifestyle,” said Cindy Sovine, CEO of Utopia, in a statement.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the owners of 1136 Yuma. The dispensary is owned by Kirill Merkulov and Rita Tsalyuk’s husband. Rita Tsalyuk manages the shop.

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Business & data reporter Adrian D. Garcia can be reached via email at agarcia@denverite.com or twitter.com/adriandgarcia.

Adrian D. Garcia

Author: Adrian D. Garcia

Adrian D. Garcia is on business and trends for Denverite, serves as treasurer for the Colorado chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and on the board of the Denver Press Club. He can be reached at agarcia@denverite.com.