SOUTH HAVEN — Curve Inn in South Haven Township has been known for its homemade soups, burgers, broasted chicken and karaoke.
But lately, the Curve is becoming known for something else – its private cannabis gatherings.
For two weekends the roadhouse-style bar and grill on Blue Star Highway opened its doors on Saturday from 10 p.m.-2 a.m. to members of the recently established Southwest Shore Cannabis Club.
During that block of time, members could eat from the Curve’s menu, purchase beverages and of course, smoke joints.
Apparently, the decision to provide space for the group to enjoy recreational marijuana was a hit for those who went, according to the 100-plus posts on the Curve Inn’s Facebook site.
“Great time. Great people. ... History in the making,” one person posted.
“This was a blast. Let’s do it again,” another said.
The Curve is one of the few establishments, so far, in Michigan that has allowed marijuana clubs to meet regularly at their businesses. Rupert’s Brew House allows a similar club to meet at its establishment in Kalamazoo. South Haven Police Chief Natalie Thompson said she is aware of the club meetings at the Curve and says she is not aware of any laws being broken.
Curve Inn owner Pat Clausen termed the decision to provide space for the cannabis group to meet, as “a celebration” of the new voter-approved Michigan law that allows people to smoke or consume recreational marijuana.
The first two weekend gatherings went over so well that the Curve has allowed the Southwest Shore Cannabis Club to expand the weekend times it will rent out the bar in the coming few months.
Clausen said she agreed to allow the group to meet for two reasons. One, they are paying to rent her restaurant and bar, and she also thinks it’s important to provide a safe place for people to smoke marijuana in a social setting.
“If you have a class reunion or your family wants to rent our space for a wedding, and we get $2,000, bring it on,” she said, pointing out that even though pot is now legal, people are limited to smoking it in their homes. But she said it won’t stay that way and could present a problem.
“There’s no way you’re going to stop people from smoking it at the beach,” she said. “People can have up to 2.5 ounces of it in their possession. There’s going to be people walking around saying, ‘you want a joint?’”
Clausen thinks it’s safer to create a private, social setting for pot consumers to meet.
“The nice thing is people who are smoking pot are so much easier to deal with than drunks,” she said. “Nobody wants to fight. They talk. They’re listening to music and having a good time.”
There are several ground rules the club needs to follow, however. People must be 21 and must join the club and pay a one-time $5 introductory membership fee. Once they do so they can network with others who share an interest in cannabis, talk with vendors about recreational or medicinal products and smoke weed, either inside or outdoors on the Curve’s patio. They can share or exchange marijuana with other people, but no marijuana products can be sold, according to the new state law.
But there is a nagging question regarding cannabis consumption at a bar.
The new Michigan law clearly states that marijuana cannot be smoked or ingested in public or in public places. So how can The Curve Inn and other business establishments get away with it?
They can legally close their doors to the public and host a “private party” for the pot clubs, according to Thompson, who has spent the past couple of weeks discussing the issue with state and county law enforcement officials, including the Michigan Attorney General’s office. She said she did so after the police department began receiving calls and questions regarding the new cannabis club.
“They (state and county officials) said it appears to be legal right now,” Thompson said. “We’re muddling through this. There are a lot of gray areas still with the law.”
Basically, privately owned businesses can get around the law as long as they close their establishments to the public and only allow the marijuana club to meet for a designated amount of time.
“A bar that closes to allow marijuana isn’t considered a public establishment,” Thompson said. “Basically, it’s a private party.”
There are other questions Thompson has been dealing with: One, if it’s illegal to smoke in restaurants and bars, how can people get way with smoking marijuana? And two, how do you prevent people from selling marijuana at the “private parties”?
In regard to smoking, the state law specifically addresses “tobacco” products, which marijuana is not. As to monitoring pot sales at private parties, that can be difficult to do, according to Thompson.
She has heard of some businesses selling “empty” cups to customers, who then find marijuana inside.
“People are getting pretty creative,” she said.