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A marijuana lounge is headed for an Atlantic City hotel just off the Boardwalk

The 10,000 square foot "High Rollers Dispensary" and consumption lounge could open this summer inside the Claridge Hotel.

The "High Rollers Dispensary" and consumption lounge is planned the former casino floor at the Claridge Hotel in Atlantic City.
The "High Rollers Dispensary" and consumption lounge is planned the former casino floor at the Claridge Hotel in Atlantic City.Read moreHandout

ATLANTIC CITY — The Claridge Hotel in Atlantic City is making space on what used to be its casino floor for a cannabis dispensary and lounge that could open as soon as this summer.

The state is finalizing its approval of regulations on legalized consumption lounges, where customers can smoke, vaporize, or eat cannabis products they’ve purchased at dispensaries in a public setting, like a weed version of a bar or restaurant.

» READ MORE: New Jersey is planning for public marijuana lounges. But some are criticizing proposed restrictions.

Meanwhile, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority gave its approval last week to a 10,000-square-foot, two-story High Rollers Dispensary, to be located at the Claridge, a 1920s-era former casino located between Park Place and Indiana Avenue, just off the Boardwalk.

Because the Claridge does not technically abut the Boardwalk — it is separated by Brighton Park and the Korean War Memorial — it is not subject to the city’s restriction against recreational cannabis on the Boardwalk. And it no longer has a casino, which would have subjected it to federal restrictions.

Jon Cohn, an owner of High Rollers Dispensary, said the company was close to finalizing its lease from the Claridge and would embark on $3.2 million in renovations, including building a new entrance on Pacific Avenue near Indiana.

“We feel it’s a good fit for the city as a whole, to utilize cannabis for tourism,” said Cohn, whose company is also licensed to build a cultivation facility on a vacant tract of land on nearby Martin Luther King Boulevard near Arctic in Atlantic City. “You can’t be on the Boardwalk, but it’s relatively close.”

He is anticipating 175 jobs for the cultivation facility, which is still under review by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, and 35 more for the dispensary and lounge.

» READ MORE: Five things to know about Atlantic City's green zone

The dispensary portion will take over most of what was formerly an art gallery that is now used mainly for cocktail parties, weddings and other events. The hotel, which does a brisk wedding business, will maintain a portion of that space for that use.

Cohn said the dispensary and lounge would also be accessible through the hotel lobby, except when the hotel is hosting weddings, he said.

The rest of the space, and a second-story, 3,700-square-foot former baccarat lounge, will be renovated into the dispensary and consumption lounge, featuring a non-alcoholic bar, possible options for outside food, live music and other pop-up entertainment, Cohn said.

The state’s current proposed regulations do not permit any alcohol or food to be sold inside consumption lounges, but those provisions have been subject to criticism during the public comment period, which ends March 18.

In 2022, Atlantic City established a “green zone,” to encourage cannabis tourism. The zone includes Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Avenue from Boston to Maryland Avenue, plus the Orange Loop District, an area of bars, restaurants and music that runs from Tennessee and New York Avenue from Pacific to 200 feet from the Boardwalk.

New Jersey is home to 21 dispensaries that serve recreational users, and nine that serve medical marijuana patients exclusively. The proposed rules allow marijuana businesses to apply to open one consumption area. Atlantic City has two medical dispensaries, “The Botanist,” on the Boardwalk at South Carolina Avenue, and MPX NJ on the New York Avenue beach block. Several retail locations are in the works.