After a long week at work, many people head straight to their nearest bar for a drink to take the edge off. It’s a time-honored tradition, but it might be in for a new twist. The next time your friends invite you out to de-stress, the destination could be a CBD vape lounge.
Buoyed by the legalization of hemp under the 2018 Farm Bill, new CBD vape lounges have begun to emerge throughout the country. One of the most recent examples can be found in (of all places) the small town of Menasha, Wisconsin, where the Superior Lounge is set to open in August.
Owner Sam Khatib told the local paper Post Crescent that the move was a no-brainer. “Once we found out about vape, we loved it. CBD really sealed the deal. The feeling is relaxation and relief if you’re tense,” he said. Inspired by iconic pouf- and tapestry-covered Middle Eastern cafes, the new establishment will also offer coffees, teas, juices, and a selection of desserts.
Other CBD vape lounges, like the Cloud Vapor Lounge in Chicago, have opted for a more modern feel, with slick modular layouts, comfortable furniture, funky decorations — and a huge selection of CBD products and vape devices for sale, aimed at encouraging customers to come in, relax, and perhaps leave with a new purchase or two.
The popularity of these new establishments has convinced some vape shops to re-brand themselves as CBD lounges, as was the case with Sweet ReLeaf, a business in Charlottesville, Virginia. “I figure that we could have a much broader, more open spectrum of customers,” as Bree Riffel, one of the shop’s partners, told a local CBS affiliate. “People that we can get to with CBD then when we were being so closed off with vaping.”
These lounges are a logical extension of the CBD craze that has permeated café culture in the past year. Many café owners have found people are ravenous for CBD, generating a brisk trade in infused coffees and teas. As a result, their businesses have seen a significant boost in sales.
“Since we started, a quarter to a third of our customers [have upgraded to] CBD drinks,” as Dan Guy, owner of Espresso Bay coffee shop in Traverse City, Michigan, told Cooking Light. “I knew it would be popular, but didn’t expect it to take off so fast.”
But aside from boosting the bottom lines of small business owners, CBD vape lounges also offer the potential of adding health-conscious social spaces to local nightlife scenes — which may be exactly what consumers are looking for.
Alcohol consumption among young people has been falling for years. According to a 2018 study by Berenberg Research, members of Generation Z in their early 20s consume around 20 percent less alcohol than their millennial counterparts (who also drink less than Baby Boomers or Gen Xers did at the same age). Meanwhile, a survey of 1,900 conducted by researchers from the analytics firm RTI International found that 52.5 percent of respondents believe alcohol is more damaging to their health than cannabis. While that survey didn’t ask participants about their thoughts on CBD, it’s safe to say that most would find the non-intoxicating compound to be healthier than booze as well.
This has led some to wonder if CBD vape lounges might one day replace Irish pubs and upscale cocktail bars as the meeting place of choice for the young and trendy. It’s not an unreasonable assumption, but it also doesn’t quite mesh with reality (at least for the time being).
One of the main reasons is because many CBD lounges actually do offer (or plan to offer) alcohol on their premises. For example, the Superior Lounge in Wisconsin is applying for a license to serve beer, while Taboo Lounge in Charlotte, North Carolina — another combination vape lounge/retail shop — offers cocktails created by a professional mixologist (some of which are infused with CBD).
But while the end of bars might still be a ways away, it’s clear that CBD vape lounges* offer an attractive alternative, and they don’t seem to be going away any time soon.
*One last thing: since the CBD market is largely unregulated, it can be difficult to know what’s in a given product, especially one you’ve never seen before. So, if you choose to visit a CBD lounge, it’s good to ask questions about where they source their CBD, if their products are tested by an independent third-party laboratory, and if you can see their certificates of analysis.