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Englewood isn’t a welcome place for a business operating as marijuana-consumption venue — that’s what the Englewood City Council decided in June 2016 when it voted unanimously to ban the opening of such businesses. And now the sole business to offer on-site marijuana consumption in Englewood is leaving.
The business, Studio 420, had been operating on South Broadway for a year when the mid-2016 ban passed, and the owners tried to remain open long-term. But in December 2016, six months after the passage of the ban, Studio 420 — which sells tobacco and paraphernalia used to consume marijuana in addition to offering a space for consumption — received a cease-and-desist order from the city to stop the pot-consumption part of its business, and subsequent appeal attempts did not work out for the company.
“They don’t want us anyway, so we’re going peacefully,” said Marty Fuchs, the shop’s co-owner, on April 30. He announced on Studio 420’s Facebook page April 27 that the store will move to a location outside Englewood. It was set to close May 10.
The business at 3995 S. Broadway had challenged the city’s cease-and-desist order at a hearing last June, arguing that it qualified for an exemption under a state law it said would allow pot consumption at the business. At Studio 420, formerly known as iBake Englewood, customers can buy memberships to consume marijuana and marijuana products in the building.
Studio 420’s legal counsel argued at the hearing that under the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, tobacco and marijuana are regulated similarly. Smoking is allowed in retail tobacco shops in which the sale of non-tobacco products is only a small part of the business. Studio 420 argued it qualified for the exception.
The city roundly rejected that argument, writing that the shop doesn’t meet the definition of a tobacco business in a decision released last July, a month after the hearing. The city also said the business, which opened in June 2015, obtained a license by “fraud, misrepresentation or false statements.”
Studio 420’s business-license application described it as a retail shop selling tobacco products, pipes, shirts and hats.
Its business application did not list that it would charge a membership fee that would provide access to a back room for consumption of marijuana and marijuana products brought by members. The shop argued that Englewood’s application form only asks for taxable activities, but the city questioned why it did not list its accommodation of marijuana consumption under a section that asked for other services.
City Manager Eric Keck testified at the June hearing that he couldn’t say whether the Studio 420 owners, Fuchs and his son Craig Fuchs, intended to mislead the city, but he said outside the hearing that the majority of a store’s sales must be tobacco sales if it is to be exempt from the smoking restriction. Studio 420 does not meet that criteria, in the city’s view. Studio 420’s conflict was the first license-revocation case in Englewood history, Keck said at the time.
Studio 420 filed to appeal the July decision, Marty Fuchs said at the time. The city got an outside arbitrator to review the case, but another attorney for the city took over the case this year, and in connection with the change in attorneys, “the whole process got stagnated,” Fuchs said.
Keck on May 2 said the city is not able to comment on the matter.
“I still feel we’re 100 percent in the right,” Fuchs said, saying the shop was good for the community. Customers came from the metro area and other states and countries, he said.
“In three years, we have never had a negative issue in the city — police, fire or ambulance,” Fuchs said.
Craig Fuchs said at the June hearing that the membership part of the business was originally intended to be a slight aspect that became more popular than anticipated.
“It helps people get off the street and consume legally,” Craig Fuchs said at the time. “There are a lot of people in apartments, or with children and animals, that won’t (or can’t) smoke in their homes.”
A witness at the June hearing said he smokes for medical reasons and can’t smoke at the property where he lives. He also said he’s met others who smoke for medical reasons at Studio 420.
“Would you rather have people smoking by parks or schools or city hall? Or in here, in a safe environment?” Marty Fuchs said in July.
Englewood Fire Marshal Laura Herblan said at the June hearing that she was not aware that Studio 420 would be using lighting devices like torches and said such activity would bring fire code issues into play.
The city argued that hats, T-shirts, snacks or other such items — or memberships — can’t be the main part of a tobacco retailer’s sales if it wants to be exempt from smoking restrictions.
“We see them as a shop that sells tobacco as incidental to other things they do there,” Keck said outside the hearing.
The shop plans to move closer to downtown Denver than it is now, Marty Fuchs said, but the new location was not announced as of May 2.
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