The Rabbit Hole at Sprague and Bowdish

Posted: May 18, 2014 in Opening Business in Spokane Valley
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The barrel-topped building just south of Sprague and Bowdish, birth and burial site of Ringo’s Casino, is about to become a beehive of activity when a group of marijuana merchants open shop. Now the games of chance at the old casino site are really getting interesting. Legal pot peddling is a new and wide open field that has beckoned an odd array of creative and bold players like Tim McKinney and his associates.
The first time I met Tim McKinney was about 10:00 o’clock a few Friday nights ago while I was walking peacefully with an absent mind down to the Iron Horse to meet Elaine who was getting off work from her job at the Ambrosia Bistro. I had already noted the one car parked out front of the building and so when I saw the lights go out inside, I crossed Sprague. I figured some body was working late at the renovation project that I had surmised was taking place for a week or two.
I made it all the way across the 200-yard parking lot and right up to the door before he burst out. Despite the late hour and being caught off guard, he was as open as a steamed clam and as energetic as a minor league baseball mascot when I asked him for the lowdown. Perhaps no scoop that I have uncovered snooping around has raised my eyebrows quite as high as Tim’s disclosing and detailing of the dealings that he and his associates where preparing for.
Tim told me that this spot on Earth, one that I have known as well as any spot since earliest memory, was about to become what up until just now was not available anywhere in the entire nation. Most of my life I have wondered what it would be like if the whole world were like Amsterdam where people had the choice of catching a buzz in public using alcohol or pot. Now Tim was telling me that Amsterdam was not just coming to somewhere in America, it was coming to my neighborhood. I could not keep track of many more details that he enthusiastically went on about. My mind was blown.
I did, however, have presence of boggled mind to tell him I that I wrote the occasional blog and he asked me to give him at least two weeks. That was easy because it took that long to wrap my noodle around just the basic idea that I was soon to have a pot bar within walking distance, while the rest of the nation will just be watching and wondering what it would be like to live where I live. So after two weeks I dropped back in during working hours to find Tim bustling about. I wanted to get more details on how this was going to work and once again Tim stopped what he was doing and focused on trying to help my scattered brain to see their master plan.
First of all it is going to be a private club called The Members Lounge . There will monthly dues since our liberal state of Washington only allows us to partake of pot in private and not in public. Secondly, it will take a marijuana medical card to buy pot onsite. Apparently, lawmakers decided Spokane should only have three establishment where you can buy your pot and smoke it too. Tim said that he and his gang were fourth on the list, though they are much further along than the three parties that got the much sought after licenses.
As he toured me around the building he took me to the southwest section where for the last few years I had seen gambling folks playing cards and where before that I often heaped my plate at the oriental buffet line and where 20 years ago I splurged on a company Christmas party in the banquet room of the Chinese Restaurant the building was originally built for. This quarter of the building, he told me, would soon be transformed into a farmer’s market where medicinal marijuana will be the harvest for sale.
Tim and his partners won’t sell any pot themselves, but rather provide space to merchants. It makes sence to experiment with an antique mall setting considering that we are at the starting line of this industry and, like in the gold rush days of the 1800’s it has drawn in the little guy with little resources but eager to strike it rich. Tim then guided me into the northeast quarter of the building, which has always been the dining area. This, he told me, is where members will be able to consume their cannabus, be it from home or purchased from the adjoining marketplace.
I went away from our second chat with a sense of foreboding. I worry every time that a brave soul puts thousands on the line and opens a new pace. It is bad enough that they are always based on some new and untried idea for a restaurant or bar or coffee shop, but this new venture is also based on a whole new social experience for America, let alone the Spokane Valley. Will our local pot smokers who have been forced to hide in the closet all the lives now come scurrying out and smoke in public?
Will partiers in general find consuming pot in a lounge setting as comfortable as they do the bars they have been going to for years? I can see the young crowd embracing it, but the older generation seems set in their love of alcohol which is not an option at Tim’s new joint.
Regardless, our society is about to undergo a transformation and this little private club in my backyard is leading the way onto the battlefield of Spokane. I am sure the fight will one day be won, but I fear for the those emerging out onto the front line, there has to be casualties. It was not until my third trip to this rabbit hole that I saw the light or at least a glimmer of hope.
We were driving by at about 9:00 last Saturday and the parking lot had several cars. My curiosity drove me into the parking lot and right through the doors where once again I found an obliging Tim among a large and informal gathering . He welcomed us with open arms to a meet and greet party that had been going on for two hours.
I knew that the pot that was to be consumed at the new place had to be ingested as a vapor since servers could not be exposed to smoke. But it had not dawned on me that the technology of the e-cigarette had been applied to pot. To paraphrase an old Cheech and Chong bit: No smoke or smell that you don’t need, vaporized pot is bad-assed weed. The age of the e-joint is upon us.
As vapor puffs frequently appeared from the mouths of the happy laid-back crowd, the smoke cleared and I saw where this place might have a chance. If vapor lounges have been around for years and have been able to survive and prosper how much better are their chances now that the law allows for the granddaddy of all vapor-able substances? For Tim’s sake and the sake of all the Marijuana Sooners preparing to race for their stake in this new state of affairs and for the sake of Washington’s bold step towards common sense, I hope our town rises to the occasion. I say let’s Amsterdam it.

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