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Inside ‘Smoke and Mirrors,’ which could be the first state-regulated cannabis lounge

Naoka Foreman
Naoka Foreman
Thrive Cannabis Marketplace in Las Vegas on Tuesday, June 27, 2023. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

Chris LaPorte, a New Yorker and former owner of the Insert Coins bar in downtown Las Vegas, plans to bring an eclectic, “grown and sexy” crowd to Thrive Cannabis Marketplace’s social use lounge called “Smoke and Mirrors,” which management said they hope to open this October. 

The 1,200-square-foot venue is 90 percent complete, could run 24 hours a day, holds 100 people inside and has additional space on its 1,000-square-foot front patio. Operators said they hope the venue is the first state-regulated lounge that opens.

“Truthfully, this isn't that new,” LaPorte said about consumption lounges, which will mark the first places Nevadans will have to legally, publicly consume cannabis, outside of NuWu Cannabis Marketplace's tasting room on tribal land. “But because of what we bring to the table in terms of hospitality and entertainment, this is going to be a much more elevated experience for a cannabis consumer.”

In June, Thrive Cannabis Marketplace, a multilocation, large-scale cannabis operator, became one of the first three establishments awarded a provisional license by the Cannabis Compliance Board (CCB), for its Sammy Davis Jr. Drive location near Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club in Clark County, along with Planet 13 Dispensary in Clark County and Washoe County’s The Venue at Sol Cannabis. 

The news comes two years after consumption lounges were legalized in Nevada through AB341 and several years after voters authorized recreational use in 2016. According to the Chamber of Cannabis, the business trade organization that helped reintroduce a consumption lounge proposal during the 2021 legislative session, AB341 was the solution to legal and safe social cannabis consumption in Nevada for locals and tourists because the original ballot measure prohibited consumption outside of a private residence. 

LaPorte said the space will include plush green booths that line one side of the lounge, bar seating, a community table in the center, a showy VIP couch toward the back, an elevated stage for a DJ and a special access smoking room. He said attracting the local community is a big part of the marketing plan, on top of hosting corporate events, turntable performances, live entertainment and opening the door to Las Vegas-based performing artists.

“You have all these nightlife spots on the Strip and it's kind of the same thing,” LaPorte, a consultant for Thrive who will run the day-to-day operations for Smoke and Mirrors, told The Nevada Independent during a tour June 27. “It's just boom, boom, EDM (electronic dance music) and we want more of an open format – music discovery [environment].” 

During the tour, the venue was bare, with finished floors and circular light fixtures but lacking furniture, decorations and a ventilation system that would change out the air at least 20 times per hour as required by law. 

The lounge also needs to pass a final inspection from Clark County and the Cannabis Compliance Board (CCB), before doors can open for the planned soft and grand openings this fall. The vision, as described by LaPorte, employs the typical top-quality Las Vegas hospitality angle using cannabis as a “social lubricant.”

LaPorte said he is scooping up ideas from different places, including Japanese listening bars, Amsterdam and unlicensed consumption lounges that secretly operate, and combining concepts to create a “vibe.” He said he hopes to create an inclusive space that consumers rank as a third place they want to be – aside from work and home. 

“There's absolutely a lot of products out there,” LaPorte said. “They're canned or bottled. Coffees and sodas. But I think the alcohol replacement is the real opportunity for this setting.”

He said he’s excited to experiment with cannabis mixology, which can include serving premade drinks or mixed drinks that are created based on a customer’s desired effects. He also mentioned infused accouterments, or dipping sauces for food that could be served by food trucks.

LaPorte said the initial phase will include a discovery of what consumers want out of cannabis drinks such as carbonation, still liquids or heat that mimics alcohol.

“There's one product in particular that I'm very excited about,” he said. “It gives you the effect of the heat of alcohol. And that means a lot to me as someone who enjoys an old-fashioned.” 

The customer experience

A reservation system that requires consumers to share their THC tolerance and experience will be used to capture profiles of guests to accurately take them on a cannabis journey.

Besides drinks and prerolls, guests could partake in dabs, which involves inhaling highly concentrated THC through a contraption.

“It’s a new way to kind of lightly enjoy a drink and get a light buzz,” LaPorte said of the lounge. “Everyone can hang out, or we bring you to the bar and you'll hang out and meet new people.”

He said guests can also expect to indulge in nostalgic activities such as coloring books, board games and possibly video games outside of music experiences.

LaPorte said the hospitality approach will give a “white glove” or personalized feel to exceed guests expectations, and that the environment will be more laid back than a nightclub and stray away from “Tiesto remixes” or the highly popular house music artists that dominate local nightclub discography. 

“You're hanging out – there's no drama,” LaPorte said. “It's not a raucous crowd [at Smoke and Mirrors]. We’re just chillin’.” 


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