A man puffs in the Vape Lab coffee bar in London on Aug. 27, 2014. (Dan Kitwood, Getty Images)

Coffee shop wants to be Denver’s first legal marijuana club

A spokesman for the Denver department that regulates marijuana businesses, Dan Rowland, says the city received an application Friday from a business called the Coffee Joint. The location is in a light industrial area off Interstate 25.

More than three months after Denver officially opened the gates, the first application to allow social marijuana use in a business has landed.

The applicants seek to take advantage of 2016’s voter-passed Initiative 300, which made Denver the first in the nation to launch a program allowing limited public consumption at businesses and at permitted events. Patrons must bring their own cannabis.

Entrepeneurs Rita Tsalyuk and Kirill Merkulov plan to open a coffee shop called The Coffee Joint in coming weeks in a gritty industrial area southwest of downtown. The owners have connections to a dispensary next door.

Dan Rowland, the spokesman for Denver’s licensing department, confirmed the application for the first cannabis consumption establishment license Monday. He said a public hearing on the license would be set in the next two or three months.

But The Coffee Joint has cleared perhaps the most difficult bar set by extensive administrative rules adopted by city licensing officials over the summer: It has backing from the La Alma-Lincoln Park Neighborhood Association.

“I met with them several times, and one of their members also toured the facility,” Tsalyuk said. “We’re going to be good partners.”

Despite the name, the business does not plan to allow the smoking of marijuana.

If the application is approved, its owners plan to allow on-site vaping and consumption of edibles in the 21-and-over business at 1130 Yuma Court, just east of Interstate 25. They will charge a $5 admission fee that includes basic coffee and tea offerings, Tsalyuk said. They hope to offer a welcoming atmosphere, she said, by offering premium drinks and packaged food for sale along with board games, retail items for sale, art and music.

“We will open as a coffee shop in the next couple weeks,” she said. “We hope to open before Christmas,” with just coffee and tea until city approval of their application allows for marijuana consumption.

Tsalyuk said the business also will offer vaping equipment for rent and hopes to offer programs educating patrons about the medicinal benefits of marijuana.

Her husband and Merkulov co-own the next-door dispensary, which is called 1136 Yuma. It opened next door a year ago and now offers both medical and recreational marijuana sales, she said.

Under the rules of Initiative 300, businesses with marijuana sales licenses can’t apply for on-site consumption, but they are allowed to open separate businesses.

The initiative requires that patrons bring their own marijuana for use at the business. And business must follow the state’s indoor smoking ban, though they can allow vaping indoors.

Applicants also must obtain backing from a nearby neighborhood or business group, which allows those groups to set additional restrictions tailored to the area.

Backers of I-300, which 54 percent of Denver voters approved last year, contend that city officials added too many hassles for potential applicants. Those include location restrictions that made potential applicants in many areas of the city ineligible because they are within 1,000 feet of schools, alcohol and drug treatment centers, and child-care facilities.

State-imposed restrictions on businesses with liquor licenses also make it more difficult for bars to apply. City officials have speculated that it is more likely that coffee shops, yoga studios and other nonalcohol businesses will apply.

Since late August, when the city said it was ready to accept applications, several business owners have expressed interest in I-300 licenses.

But none has pulled the trigger — until now.

This story was first published on DenverPost.com