California-based beverage company Cannabiners, the developers of one of the first-to-market cannabis-infused beers, announced this week that they have opened the first “cannabis speakeasy,” inside the Las Vegas ReLeaf dispensary.
The location, which essentially serves as a small bar and craft beer brewery, will host much of the company’s portfolio of beers and coffees on the menu.
It’s name, Dana’s Place, holds a special meaning for the company as well, considering the it is named for Dana Bernstein, the daughter of Cannabiniers co-founder Ed Bernstein, who passed away last year after a long battle with Crohn’s disease.
“She actually sought relief by using cannabis, and that was kind of the reason why Ed got into the business in the first place, so the name is a tribute to them,” Kevin Love, director of product development told Civilized.
The name was pitched by Cannabiniers partner Al Sasano early into the project’s development.
“Ed’s a very humble person, he’d never make a recommendation like that,” Love explained. “Al, who has had a very close relationship with Ed’s entire family, including Dana, came up with the idea as we were thinking of building this brew-pub element in Las Vegas.”
Bernstein ultimately approved of the idea, which Love said led to an especially emotional night during their soft opening in November, for which all of Bernstein’s family was in attendance.
“It was kind of beautiful,” said Love. It was also befitting their theme, which he says hopes to promote a sense of personality and community within the industry.
“We wanted to knock that wall down and create friendlier environment where people are kind of engaging with one another,” he said. “We want to create more of that social, friendly environment, that’s feels like showing up to a friend’s house on the weekend, because you just enjoy being there.”
Another motivating factor for the company was an effort to de-stigmatize non-alcoholic beer.
“De-alcoholized bear has a bad reputation, but we really wanted to get across that this really is good craft beer, just with the alcohol removed,” he explained. “They’re going into it knowing that it’s always been a bit taboo, but when they walk in, they see that there is something familiar, and they acclimate to it.”
The company felt that an in-dispensary pub would be the best way to engage customers in their line.
“Essentially the point is to have a large, interactive marketing piece,” he acknowledges. So why label it a speakeasy? The answer to this question lies mostly in the geography, Love explains.
“It was more specific for the Vegas location. It’s not something we expect to pull into additional markets,” he explains. “I’m in San Diego. It’s not really a ‘bougie’ area out here. It’s more of a beach community. So, here, having a “group hub” would be more in line with its environment.”
“Vegas just seemed like a really cool concept to explore. Vegas is kind of mysterious. Putting a Speakeasy there just felt like a perfect fit. So that’s what we wanted to emulate.”
Still, Dana’s Place does not necessarily adhere to many of the signifiers one might expect from your more traditional speakeasy. Many bars that adopt this descriptor often choose to ape the aesthetic of the jazz-age era of alcohol prohibition, but this is something that Canabineres has no interest in promoting.
“It's kind of a double edge sword,” Love said. “Because we don’t want to harken back to prohibition, because alcohol prohibition was an adverse time for society, just like cannabis prohibition has been a problem for our current generation. So, drawing in that parallel wasn’t really what we were driving at.”
In fact, in many ways, they’re looking to do the opposite.
“We wanted to demonstrate that it’s a time of change, but also that we’re not afraid to be in the shadows anymore.”
Despite the continued efforts to make a more enticing recreational experience, they don’t want their medicinal patients to get lost in the shuffle.
“A lot of businesses get lost in de desire to pull in recreational customers, but there remains a real need from medicinal patients. After all, theirs was the initial voice that got us to where we are,” said Love. “It's kind of an early time in our industry, because we don’t have a normalization curve to say, you fall within these parameters, you should take XYZ.’ We’re not doctors, but we do keep consultants on-staff to make educated recommendations.”
Seeing as Cannabiniers in under the same ownership as ReLeaf dispensary, hosing the bar there simply “made the most sense,” as it allowed them to “develop the project within their own store footprint.”
Still, they see this as just a starting point for them, considering they hope to continue to branch out, placing venues in dispensaries across the country.
“This is a way to show what the future could look like for dispensaries. More engagement, more interaction than just having customers coming in with their head down and hats on, looking down at their feet.”