On Tuesday night, the West Hollywood Business License Commission voted unanimously to allow the soon-to-open Lowell Café to become the nation’s first cannabis lounge. The cafe will have a menu that includes assorted edibles and other weed-infused food items, and it will also have an outdoor area where its customers can smoke or vape some of Lowell’s finest strains.
Although a lot of people are nodding enthusiastically about the city’s decision, Rabbi Denise Eger isn’t one of them. She has raised her concerns about the cafe, mostly because she’s worried that the weed smoke will drift across La Brea Avenue to her synagogue, causing a “contact high” among the Congregation Kol Ami attendees.
“We are deeply concerned about this business and this outdoor space and smoke clouds of cannabis that will limit the usage of our outdoor space,” she said during the commission’s meeting last night—and according to NBC Los Angeles, she left without speaking to anyone after that all-in-favor vote.
Wehoville reports that Lowell’s shiny new license will allow the cafe to be open for business between 10 a.m. and 2 a.m. the following morning, but it will have to adhere to the state’s cannabis license, which prevents the sale or delivery of any cannabis-based or cannabis-containing products after 10 p.m.
The cafe’s license also specifically states that the scent of weed cannot and should not be detectable “outside the property”—which is why its owners have invested in a special HVAC system that will filter the smoke out of the air. They’ve also promised that special “fragrant plants” and “odor-absorbing plants” will be scattered throughout the outdoor smoking area.
That may or may not be enough for Rabbi Eger, who wrote a letter to the city’s business license commission before the meeting took place too, expressing her concerns about the members of her congregation who are participants in 12-step programs; the children who will be potentially be exposed to weed smoke; the cafe’s ability to sell cannabis products; the outdoor consumption area; the potential for cannabis-addled drivers, and subsequent danger to pedestrians; and yes, about contact highs.
“The business is to have outdoor space for smoking pot–and I don’t know why my congregation members and participants have to walk through clouds of marijuana to get to synagogue. It will limit the use of our outdoor space as well because of the contact high from the smoke that will waft in the area,” she wrote. “We have no objections to people buying marijuana for their private use in their domains. […] We object in very strong fashion to this business.” (VICE has reached out to Rabbi Eger for additional comment about the city’s decision to approve the cafe’s license but has not yet received a response.)
To its credit, the Lowell Cafe is taking Rabbi Eger’s concerns seriously. “We are respectful of the neighborhood and are committed to ensure any cannabis scent generated from our property doesn’t impact our neighbors. We screened countless air filtration proposals and selected a system that specializes in local capture—similar to what’s used in a luxury Las Vegas hotel, chemical lab, or hospital,” Kevin Brady, Lowell Cafe’s general manager, told VICE in a statement.
“[O]ur street facing patio (closest [to] Congregation Kol Ami) will be for our non-smoking guests […] We intend to show that an establishment which allows for cannabis consumption can be as great a neighbor as any other business. We welcome the concerns and support of the neighborhood as we know all of this is uncharted.”
Lowell Cafe’s license is good for one year. Hopefully, everyone can get along—and the odor-absorbing plants do their job—so that they’ll get a second year, too.