SESSER — Holly Roeder has high hopes for Sesser.
The entrepreneur hopes her business — The Luna Lounge — will open in the next two months in Sesser, a small city of just 2,000 people, and become the first recreational cannabis consumption lounge in the state.
A state law that legalized recreational, adult-use cannabis on Jan. 1, 2020, also included provisions for consumption lounges.
The Southern Illinois native and California resident said the idea for Luna Lounge began to take shape in the last year.
She said the old Bank of Sesser Lounge building seemed like the perfect fit. She got the building for cheap, comparative to other cities, and the bones lent themselves to her aesthetics.
Think Al Capone meets red velvet and leopard print — lush but comfortable.
Roeder said the club will be obscured when customers first enter — they will be greeted by two walls illuminated with green lamps, and animal print carpet.
After paying the $4.20 entry fee, customers will walk into the lounge.
The rough, exposed brick wall will be the backdrop for the stage where Roeder said she hopes to have everything from musical performers, comedians, go-go dancers, aerial performers (she is having hooks installed just for this) and anything else that will draw an audience.
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After being seated, guests will be greeted with a server that Roeder said will be akin to cigarette girls of old. They will ask patrons how they plan to consume their cannabis and help them find a suitable consumption devices.
However, Roeder said the bar isn’t for the seasoned smoker exclusively — she welcomes the novice, too. Even the first-timer.
All employees are required to know how to roll joints, a traditional marijuana cigarette, and blunts, cannabis rolled up in a cigar wrap.
Customers will have to bring their cannabis but Roeder said Luna will offer smoking papers, pipes and other accessories for purchase or rent. When guests leave, they are given a legal bag to carry home any leftover bud they haven’t used.
Illinois allows local municipalities to regulate consumption bars as long as they fall within broad state guidelines that the business must primarily operate as either a cannabis dispensary or tobacco shop.
Roeder said inside the Luna Lounge is the original, ornate bank safe complete with jail bars inside.
This will be “The Joint” — a head shop selling pipes and cannabis accessories of all kinds. This is how Roeder said she will comply with the law.
The state's Smoke Free Illinois Act, which regulates smoking in businesses, was amended in 2019 to allow for cannabis consumption lounges, according to a spokesperson for Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
The amendment gives local governments the ability to create their own rules and regulations for these types of business, so long as they meet a few basic guidelines laid out by the state.
Consumption lounges must be limit customers to 21 years of age and up, designate a specific area for consumption, and keep the door to the consumption area locked.
Roeder said the city of Sesser has been good partners in establishing the business. Last year, the city council voted 4-2 in favor of creating the necessary regulations and boards to allow her to open the Luna Lounge, she said.
Mayor Jason Ashmore said writing the rules and regulations for businesses like Roeder’s was fairly smooth and began in March 2020. He said officials there did their research, and advice was asked of other states and communities with these types of businesses.
“We’re excited and we’re also a little nervous,” he said of likely being home to the first consumption lounge in the state.
Two things the Luna Lounge can't serve are food and alcohol due to state and local rules.
However, Roeder said she plans to have a food truck out front on weekends to help with the inevitable munchies.
They will also have CBD water on hand to help people who may have smoked too much — CBD is known to help cancel out some of the effects of the intoxicating THC compound found in cannabis.
The adult-use cannabis law prohibits consumers from partaking in public places like on sidewalks or in parks. Homeowners can use cannabis in their homes, but renters cannot.
“That’s what this space is for,” Roeder said.
It’s a place for people to relax and enjoy cannabis in a safe, fun environment, she said.
Ashmore said he thinks there will be a tax revenue boost from Luna Lounge. But he said he thinks the biggest impact will be with other businesses, like gas stations and restaurants.
Patrons of the Luna Lounge, particularly those from out of town, are likely to visit these places, too, Ashmore said.
But not everyone in town is thrilled at Luna Lounge.
Josh Qualls, a challenger to Mayor Ashmore in the upcoming April election, has blasted Roeder on his Facebook, stirring up anger about the business.
Roeder said she’s been told that her business will bring in an unsavory element to town. She wanted to dispel that rumor.
She said her customers are not delinquent stoners who are coming to town to make trouble. Roeder said they come from all walks of life and are no more or less dangerous than the patrons of other businesses in town.
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