Something New is Brewing in California: 5 Tips to Make Your Cannabis Cafe Stand Out

Mack Bush
August 28, 2023

Cannabis cafes are quickly gaining popularity as more and more states allow them to open with fewer restrictions. Many people want to consume their cannabis on-site in a social setting rather than smoking alone at home, and cannabis lounges in California just had a victory that will offer residents just that.

Cannabis cafes have been legal in some California cities since 2018, but they weren’t allowed to serve any food or drink. But in June 2023, California passed a bill that will allow cannabis cafes to serve food and nonalcoholic drinks if they receive local approval. This change makes using cannabis in public more appealing to many consumers, and makes going to a lounge feel like a social activity that can be shared with friends, whether or not they smoke. 

Many of the current cannabis lounges in California are located in San Francisco, but we anticipate that they’ll start to pop up throughout the state soon. Want to get in on the action? We’ll walk you through what you need to know to start and grow your cannabis cafe in California.

What is a Cannabis Consumption Lounge?

Cannabis lounges or cafes are establishments that allow customers to enjoy cannabis in privatized public places, like a bar or cafe. This encourages a more social approach to enjoying cannabis. Similar to how you may meet friends at a local bar for a beer, cannabis consumption lounges provide a space for friends to meet and smoke together. Many allow smoking inside, and some locations also have outdoor space. Many cannabis cafes hold events and host live musicians. In some areas, cannabis lounges are allowed to sell food and drinks, but other states don’t allow it, which can make operating the cafe more challenging.

A woman is at a cannabis consumption cafe enjoying cannabis from a bong.

Opening a Cannabis Consumption Lounge

Opening a cannabis cafe is likely to be an extremely profitable business venture, especially if you can get in on the ground floor in the next few years. Here’s five tips to consider before opening your own cannabis cafe in California.

1. Research & Plan Your Cannabis Cafe

Before you get too ahead of yourself, do some research about current cannabis laws and what is required to open a cannabis lounge in California. You’ll need to start by obtaining a cannabis business license. Make sure to fill out the application properly and be patient as you wait for approval.

Some areas of the state do not allow cannabis dispensaries or cafes. You’ll need to confirm that your interested city or county allows them. If not, scout for a different location.

You’ll need a fair amount of space for a cannabis consumption lounge. Look for a location that has room for many tables of different sizes. You’ll need a sales counter and area to stock your cannabis products. In addition, it’s a great idea to create an area for a stage if you decide to host events. An outdoor space or patio is a plus as well.

2. Prepare Your Cannabis Cafe Menu

When creating a cannabis cafe, you should work to create a high-quality menu. Your customers will be much more likely to visit if they know they'll get to enjoy amazing food paired with their cannabis products. 

Remember that most of your clientele will be there to relax and enjoy the feel-good benefits of the plant. Ask yourself: if you had a major case of the munchies, what meal would you order for delivery? What snack would you reach for? Which dessert would you want to cap things off with? Those are the kinds of flavor journeys your guests will want to go on.

Some cannabis lounges in California may also offer cannabis edibles. These can be pre-packaged to ensure proper dosing. However, if you’re able to create tasty baked creations that contain cannabis, you’ll stand out from the rest.

You cannot offer alcoholic drinks at your cannabis cafe in California. However, patrons will still want high-end, tasty beverages. You could sell mocktails, coffee, tea, boba, smoothies, high-end sodas, and more. CBD sodas could be a great alternative to THC for a guest who is tagging along and doesn’t want to get high.

3. Cultivate Your Vibe & Atmosphere

Finally, what vibe do you want your cannabis cafe to have? Who is your ideal customer? Every cafe will be very different, so it’s up to you to decide what type of lounge you want to be.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I want to create a social environment like a bar where you can meet new people, or should customers be kept in their original groups?
  • Will I play music or have live bands? What kind?
  • Will I host events? What kind? Some examples could be workshops, open mic nights, readings, meetups, or collaborative art events.
  • Will you offer table service or a counter?

There are some things that make sense across the board. We suggest selecting lighting that’s soft and not too harsh. Don’t play the music too loud. If possible, create quiet areas where people can go to mediate or read a book.

You might consider sectioning off different parts of your cannabis consumption lounge to create mini areas with their own aesthetics and activities. A back room might be a great place to project a movie, and a quiet, relaxing space could help people calm down if they get too high.

Take extra care when branding your cannabis cafe. If you miss the mark, it’s very difficult to change your vibe and menu items once you’ve already opened.

A woman is reading a book inside a cannabis consumption cafe.

4. Create a Comfortable Space

When people consume cannabis, they want to relax. You should prioritize making your cannabis lounge comfy and cozy. This will prompt guests to stay longer and enjoy the food and drinks at your cafe. Ideally, you want to curate a space that can become someone's happy or safe place.

Choose chairs that are comfortable and possibly padded. If you have the space, add some couches, armchairs, hammocks, and bean bag chairs, so people can fully relax and decompress.

5. Incorporate Outdoor Space into Your Cannabis Cafe

Having an outdoor space at your cannabis lounge in California is an awesome addition. Some customers might not feel comfortable smoking marijuana inside, no matter how well-ventilated your cafe is. An outdoor area will increase your clientele, especially when it’s nice outside.

A covered patio is a great option. People can be out in the open air without worrying about the sun, and you can keep it open if it rains. Make sure that the outdoor area of your cannabis lounge in California is legal and up to code before you start construction.

People are enjoying the patio of a cannabis consumption cafe.

Final Thoughts on Cannabis Cafes

Cannabis lounges in California are a fantastic business opportunity. If you’re interested in opening one, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the newest laws and regulations on the national, state, and local levels. We recommend consulting a cannabis lawyer if you have additional questions.

When you’re ready to hire staff for your cannabis cafe, KayaPush can help you every step of the way. Our hiring and onboarding software makes it easy to select the best candidates, get them on the floor faster, and track their sales throughout their career. Book a free demo today!

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August 2023


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