Daron Brotherton doesn’t want people to call The Clarendon “a pot hotel.”
“We are so much more than that,” says the midtown resort’s VP of Operations. “We’re about educating people on the benefits of medical marijuana and accommodating people who already know about those benefits.”
OK, but: On July 25, The Clarendon is officially relaunching as “the first cannabis-friendly hotel in the state." One of the reasons for the rebrand, Brotherton says, is that he and his crew started to notice, during the worst of the COVID pandemic, how many of their guests were relying on legal weed for comfort from stress.
“Quote-unquote normal people who were not supposed to be smoking cannabis in a hotel room were doing so,” he says. “I started thinking about how you can go to your hotel room with a glass of scotch, but you can’t have a joint in your room. In modern times, when no one is breaking the law, it didn’t seem fair.”
The Clarendon isn’t the first hotel to court cannabis users. The Winston House, a bed-and-breakfast in Seattle, recently announced rooms where guests can vape, smoke, and ingest in their room; Sir Sam’s Inn in Ontario, Canada, has an outdoor pot-smoking lounge; and the Magnolia Hotel in Denver offers in-room vaping.
At least initially, only one wing of the Clarendon will be cannabis-friendly, offering sixteen rooms in which guests can smoke marijuana if they like. If this goes well, Brotherton — who says he rarely ingests cannabis himself — may add more pot-friendly rooms.
“We have some very nice scrubbers,” Brotherton says, referring to the air-purifying devices used to remove residual smoke and odor from the room after a guest has checked out.
“We can do a room in six hours. We have Cheech-and-Chonged some of the rooms as a test,” Brotherton laughs, “and there is no residual odor of cannabis. It’s kind of cool.”
Guests staying in the weed wing will have special privileges specific to enjoying cannabis, including a car and driver who will take them to local dispensaries of their choice. Visitors are encouraged to purchase marijuana online in advance of their stay, and the Clarendon is partnering with CuraLeaf, a local dispensary, toward that end. Rental bongs and pipes will be available to hotel guests, and a special lounge and sky deck have been created just for pot users. A cannabis concierge will help locals and out-of-towners alike figure out where best to buy their pot that day.
“Just like the concierge at a five-star hotel would tell you the best restaurants, ours is knowledgeable on all the best dispensaries and which of them carries what,” Brotherton explains.
The hotel’s cannabis club is open to those not staying at the hotel, too; a day pass offers passage to the cannabis lounge and rooftop bar, with its special smoking section.
“This is not reefer madness,” according to Chef Derek Upton, who’s created a special cannabis-infused menu and plans regular dinner events for the cannabis crowd. “It’s a more elevated, more adult version of what people expect when they hear about cannabis use.”
Nor is it a means of recouping losses caused by the pandemic. “Every hotel has gone through some ups and downs during COVID,” Brotherton says. “But we’re cultivating a safe space for guests to learn the difference between stoner culture and cannabis culture.”
Everything, he insists, is being done in accordance with the law, and much of the Clarendon’s new messaging emphasizes cannabis-as-curative language. “We’re educating people about why cannabinoids are good for your body,” Upton says. “It’s not about getting high, but about the wellness offered by this plant, understanding what terpenes do, all of that.”
“We want to be the voice of change,” Brotherton says, and Upton bursts out laughing.
“It’s a new world,” says Upton, renowned in some circles as “the world’s best cannabis chef.”
“You can order cannabis on a fucking iPad!” he says, still laughing. “You’re no longer going to some back alley with a password to get into someplace to buy your weed.”
Brotherton has considered that his hotel’s new identity might scare away potential customers.
“Of course you’re always worried about losing business,” he says. “That’s why we’re trying to do this as cleverly as possible, taking things slowly and being respectful of all our guests.”
Upton points out that there’s always pushback when the world is changing. “But it’s modern times,” he says. “And fear of the unknown isn’t a good enough reason not to welcome cannabis use at your local hotel.”