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Denver Coffee Shop Aims To Be First Business To Allow Social Pot Use

By Mark Ackerman & Stan Bush

DENVER (CBS4)- More than a year after Denver voters passed an initiative to let business allow social marijuana use, the City has its first application.

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A coffee shop that has applied to house social marijuana use. (credit: CBS)

The Coffee Joint, located at 1130 Yuma Court, an industrial area on the west side of Denver, was the first business to turn in the paperwork.

Business owner Rita Tsalyuk said construction is nearly complete on the coffee shop. The shop would allow edibles and vaping but won't allow smoking inside. The business owners are considering a $5 cover charge.

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CBS4's Stan Bush interviews Rita Tsalyuk. (credit: CBS)

"I want it to have a Starbucks feeling, but more like the Highlands," said Tsalyuk. "They'll watch TV, listen to music, do art, there will be lessons, educational events, just no cannabis… yet."

Tsalyuk expects the coffee shop to open before Christmas with marijuana operations around March 2018.

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(credit: CBS)

Dan Rowland with Denver's license and excise said the marijuana-based business got approval from the the La Alma-Lincoln Park Neighborhood Association.

RELATED STORIES: Marijuana Legalization Story Archive

"I really feel comfortable," said Aubrey Lavizzo who is part of the neighborhood association which met with the owners of the Coffee Joint.

"Our main concerns where whether or not they are going to be good neighbors," said Lavizzo. "But they were coming to our meeting and answering all their questions."

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(credit: CBS)

Lavizzo said concern was expressed about drivers who are high so close to Interstate 25, but he said that was a greater concern for Denver police than the neighborhood.

Tsalyuk recommends customers who visit should not drive, or instead bring a designated driver. She says her staff will be trained to notice the signs of intoxication before people leave.

"We are not going to police them if that's what you mean, but we will help them out to make the right decisions," said Tsalyuk.

People who patronize a "social consumption" location would have to bring their own marijuana.

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(credit: CBS)

Businesses can't sell marijuana or operate a liquor license and a social consumption license at the same time, so many entrepreneurs interested in the concept are looking for alternative business models.

Some "social consumption" business models in the works include a video arcade, a day spa and a music venue.

"Keeping it away from residents and homes is another step to protecting life in the city," said Rachel O'Bryan, who campaigned against the law in 2016.

"People are looking to us, so if we do it unsafely that news is going to travel across the country, if not the world," she said.

Public hearings on the Coffee Joint will take place over the next "two or three months."

Mark Ackerman is a Special Projects Producer at CBS4. Follow him on Twitter @ackermanmark

Stan Bush is a general assignment reporter at CBS4. His stories can be seen on CBS4 News at 10. Read his bio and follow him on Twitter @StanBushTV.

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