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The Cookies Coaling Dispensary and Consumption Lounge in Coalinga is the first consumption lounge in Fresno County. The dispensary will be connected to the lounge and guests can consume cannabis infused food and drink products, and have food delivered from local vendors. The space will also be available to rent out for parties and private events. Photo contributed

published on October 20, 2021 - 1:56 PM
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In the almost two years since the pandemic begin, the Central Valley has seen the proliferation of the legal cannabis market, with the City of Fresno recently approving 21 business licenses for dispensaries. Several dispensaries and cannabis cultivation projects are already operating in Kings and Tulare counties.

The recent grand opening of a business in the Central Valley interjects the demand for more entertainment options locally with a new and budding industry for the region.

On Sept. 18, Cookies Coalinga Dispensary and Consumption Lounge celebrated its grand opening — the first in Fresno County where you can partake onsite.

The consumption lounge is connected to the Cookies brand dispensary, located on Durian Avenue right off of Highway 198.

The lounge features a custom-made bar, luxury seating and a top-of-the-line air filtration system. The lounge itself covers 1,000 square feet and combined with the store, the building covers about 5,000 square feet.

The Cookies Coalinga Dispensary partnered with local cannabis grower EVIDENCE, which is owned and operated by siblings Dan, Casey and Kelly Dalton. EVIDENCE is owned by parent company Ocean Grown Extracts, also a Dalton company, and grows and manufactures cannabis out of an abandoned, high security private prison in Coalinga to support more sustainable production and help individuals harshly punished for cannabis-related crimes.

Casey Dalton, CEO of Ocean Grown Extracts, said that while the Cookies brand will be handling the management of the store and lounge, Ocean Grown Extracts was actively involved in the acquisition of the property and working with the City of Coalinga to get the project moving.

“A consumption lounge from the ground up is fairly unusual. Even though regulations have moved in California with many different cities opening up, it still feels as if a consumption lounge that is similar an environment as a bar—with TVs, entertainment and a safe place to consume and socialize — is unusual in California. We haven’t seen many like this built from the ground up,” Dalton said.

Guests of the lounge will have the ability to order cannabis- and non-cannabis infused food. Tables in the lounge will have a QR code that allows guests to order from local restaurants and have their food delivered to the lounge.

The city’s ordinance allows for only products purchased at the Cookies dispensary to be consumed at the lounge.

When comparing the consumption lounge in Coalinga to others that she has seen in the state, Dalton said that building one from the ground up allows for a more complete control of the environment.

The mechanical engineering that went into the design of the building was very expensive, Dalton said, but it allows the lounge to meet the same standards that would be seen in a cigar bar or a casino and have better air quality in the space.

The team made it a point to allow any guests consuming cannabis products to invite a guest, especially one that will not consume any product and serve as a designated driver.

The space has a capacity of 78, but Dalton said that they are keeping the limit to 30 to allow for more room, cleaner air and more seating options.

The lounge will also be doing rentals of the space for events such as bachelor parties, sports or movie viewing parties, and a cooking events where customers can cook and infuse cannabis in food.

One advantage of having a consumption lounge is cannabis brands gaining the ability to have more conversations with customers directly about their products. A dispensary can only give non-cannabis infused samples to customers.

“If you look at any other business, it’s typical that there is some form of research and development that takes place, and that hasn’t really been done much in California for cannabis,” Dalton said.

California does not require a state license to open a lounge unless it is also selling cannabis products, but does have regulations around consumption lounges. Since the trend is so new, it wasn’t easy finding other lounges that were successful or had the right environment to help mirror for their own lounge, Dalton said.

Both the lounge and the store have a combined total of about 37 employees.

“New things are never easy, especially when it comes to cannabis, so I’m really grateful to the city, to Cookies and to the customers because it is an unknown and there were a lot of concerns, and seeing lines wrap around the building and seeing the excitement was really reassuring,” Dalton said.

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