When the budtenders at the La Brea Collective packed their last bowl on June 20, it was the end of an era. For years, hundreds of stoners came to LBC every day to pick up, get high and hang out. Then voters in May approved a ballot measure that banned on-site smoking at marijuana dispensaries and the party abruptly shut down.
Well, now the gang is back together again, with a slightly different setup meant to edge around the law by separating out the bar from the dispensary. On September 27, friends of LBC's owners opened TreeHouse Social Lounge, a swanky, alcohol-free clubhouse where patients can bring their own "medication" and chill for the evening, a block away from the old spot, where they can still legally buy weed. TreeHouse membership packages range from $5 a day to -- duh -- $420 a year.
Patients can bring their own pipes, bongs, joints and blunts, but no spliffs: tobacco is not allowed. Lazier folks whose memberships don't include unlimited "glass" can rent pristine bongs by the half-hour, including one $1,500 model with a coil of frozen glycerin winding through the shaft. Also for sale? Sixteen brands of rolling papers, eight flavors of blunts and, of course, Clear Eyes drops.
Come in during a Dodgers or Lakers game and you'll find fans glued to one of four flat screen TVs or a big projection screen, where a few weeks ago some paranoid potheads shivered through the violent finale of Breaking Bad in surround sound.
The place is pimped out with a popcorn machine, a touch-screen bar game console, and a small stage for DJs, bands, speakers or comedians. General manager Aggie Karmelita hand-picked reggae, hip-hop and 90s alt-rock tunes for the jukebox.
Recent events have featured Matt Shotwell, a medical marijuana advocate featured on the Discovery Channel's reality show Weed Country; electronic hip-hop artist Knxwledge; and the actor who plays Lamar in Grand Theft Auto V.
TreeHouse's marketing director, Steve Yandrich, 29, says he intends to host live jazz every Tuesday and other events throughout the week. A karaoke machine is under discussion.
But those who remember the heady days back at La Brea Collective -- when you could wander in for free, drop $2 on a hit of hash and spend the afternoon enjoying unlimited free water and playing video games -- might find a few aspects of the new place a bit of a bummer.
Cotton-mouthed, munchies-prone smokers might be particularly alarmed to learn they can only consume the organic, healthy snacks (plantain chips; freeze-dried fruit; Mojo Clif bars) and beverages (coconut water; Honest Tea; yerba mate) sold in the vending machines. No outside food or drinks are allowed.
Yandrich says he hopes patients understand that since the lounge doesn't sell any marijuana they need alternative revenue streams to stay afloat.
Even if you can't bring in your cheeseburger and orange soda, there's nothing else quite like this place in L.A. at the moment, which is why TreeHouse already has nearly 1,600 followers on Instagram.
Just one warning: TreeHouse installed a 20-ton air conditioning system in a space that would normally require a mere 10-ton unit, but L.A. Weekly's clothes still reeked of ganja after visiting the lounge -- and then stank up our car for a day or three. So this might not be the best place to drop by before dinner with your parents.
Unless, of course, your parents are cool like that.
TreeHouse Social Lounge, 5025 W. Pico Blvd, open 4pm-12am on weeknights; 4pm-2am on weekends. Follow @the420treehouse on Instagram for event updates and announcements.