Boulder bars must now balance booze and bud


Colorado is blazing the trail as the state works to set the standards for legal marijuana use in America. As the first state to roll out legal pot, Colorado is now under a magnifying glass as we create laws to deal with recreational use of what was once an illegal drug. But the legal availability of potent strains of weed in numerous forms for Boulderites of legal age is also creating new burdens for bar and restaurant owners, who are now legally accountable for stoned patrons wanting a drink.

How are they dealing with it? With a great deal of confusion.

The biggest issue bars are now facing is a lack of clear direction from the city and state. The standard officials offer is if a patron shows “visible intoxication” then don’t serve them.

But what does visible intoxication mean? Slurring words, bloodshot eyes, and stumbling around? These classic signs of impairment are part of the warning signs from the Colorado state website defining alcohol intoxication; and those are the standards Boulder police are using when visiting establishments that serve alcohol. Boulder business owners complain that this leaves a lot of gray area, allowing what they describe as overzealous city attorney, Tom Carr, and a stricter Beverage Licensing Authority to continue their assault upon overconsumption, as reported in Boulder Weekly’s March 27 cover story “The new moral crusade.”

One bar owner who asked not to be identified summed it up: “They are holding us even more accountable, but refuse to offer help. The last [BLA] meeting I went to they reviewed the signs for alcohol consumption. When I asked about pot-specific scenarios I was told to figure it out. How, I ask?” 

Faced with such ambiguity, several owners are taking matters into their own hands. The West End Tavern has banned all electronic cigarettes due to the fact they could be used for cannabis.

“We feel like we are part of the community here; it’s our responsibility to set an example,” says Hunter Thompson, the West End Tavern’s manager. “If someone lit up a joint on our deck it would be easy to smell, but the vaporizers make it almost undetectable.”

Other bars are trying to catch the problem at the door by denying access to individuals who reek of pot.

“We have been working with our staff to spot issues before they grow into something unwanted,” says Victor Krum, co-owner of the Bohemian Biergarten. “We have a doorman most nights and his job is to look for any signs of overconsumption, be it pot, booze or something else. If someone makes it through [the door] and then starts showing any signs, then they are cut off.”

So the issue remains, as everyone scrambles to catch up to the new norm in this wild weed-smoking West. But while bar owners are held accountable for monitoring the potentially off-site pot consumption of their customers, people seem to light up regularly on the Boulder courthouse lawn and everyone ignores it, despite public pot-smoking remaining illegal. No wonder everyone is confused.


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