The couple behind the retro record store Sound Garden is planning to open Maryland’s first medical cannabis lounge in Fells Point later this year. The lounge will inhabit 701 S. Bond St., previously home to Sir Duke, a bar that closed earlier this year. It is currently going through the approval process and awaiting final approval.
“We don’t know,” said Derek Baumgardner, City Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals Executive Director, when asked when his agency expected to grant final approval.
The lounge—inspired by similar businesses on the West Coast and Arizona— will be a members only club where card holders can pay a monthly fee to partake in medical cannabis educational sessions, yoga and cooking classes, according to its website. Members will also be able to consume medical cannabis on site. This business venture comes in two parts, the medical cannabis lounge on the second floor and a new restaurant on the first. The restaurant, Bird on a Wire, is in partnership with award winning chef and winner of the Food Network’s “Beat Bobby Flay” show, Kelvin Fernandez.
Bryan Burkert opened Sound Garden with his wife in 1993. He has been a Fells Point business owner for 26 years but was skeptical when the idea was initially presented to him last May.
“At first, I was intrigued by it but apprehensive about the application and if it could actually work. And as we started to look at it a little more closely, I thought it was worth at least the attempt,” Burkert said.
Getting approval from the Baltimore City Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals is proving more difficult than anticipated.
“With most of my businesses, I don’t really dwell on whether it’s going to make a lot of money, I just kind of go with a gut feeling,” he said. “I really liked this idea...as an opportunity to really create a cool space. We can do so many different things with this space.”
The medical cannabis lounge will be a private social club. Only medical marijuana card holders who are paying members will be allowed, according to Baumgardner. There are currently no other businesses trying to do something similar.
He added that the approval process, which generally takes 30 days, took nearly seven months because the board had never been presented with a medical marijuana lounge. However, if everything goes as planned, it will be the first in the state of Maryland.
“Over the course of six or seven months, the board held it until we had all the information that we needed,” he said. “It was interesting because state law and federal law conflict here.”
As long as the lounge is allowed by state law, isn’t open to the general public and met all state law rules for medical cannabis use then the board can approve it as a private social club, he said.
“The Board approved it with a long list of conditions. I’ve never seen this many conditions on an approval.”
“They’re required to charge some kind of dues, they’re required to have some kind of rule structure, some kind of organizational structure, like any other private social club, President, Secretary [and] Treasurer.”
Local medical cannabis users like Bill Seaman, who works in downtown Baltimore , are intrigued by the idea of a lounge in the city.
Seaman, 44, frequents the city’s medical cannabis dispensaries like Pure Life Wellness on Cross St. and ReLeaf in Mount Vernon. He said he would consider becoming a member of a medical cannabis lounge instead of being confined to the walls of his home.
“I know a couple of them have been talking about doing lounges but, because of legislation, haven’t really been pushing,” he said. “But I think it would be neat.”