While tipsy partygoers sway to thumping dance music at the bars along Water Street in downtown Worcester, a more relaxed crowd assembles across the street at The Summit Lounge, a private club for smoking marijuana.
For $15 a month, plus a $5 entrance fee per visit, members can bring and smoke their own weed. Some members say the club is a relief from the boisterous bar scene — a place where they can kick back with friends, watch sports, and light up.
Kyle Moon, 28, opened The Summit Lounge with his family in February, and since then membership has grown from 10 people to more than 100. The space feels like someone’s living room, with potted plants and local art abundant throughout. There are leather couches, an Xbox system, and old-fashioned games like Jenga.
The back room has been dubbed “the kitchen” by Moon’s mother because it’s where members tend to gather. On a recent afternoon, three members were sharing laughs and joints at the bar as music played faintly in the background. The club typically hosts five to 10 people on an average night, and about 20 when it’s busy.
The club’s amenities include smoking paraphernalia for rent or purchase, and — for those who get the munchies — a heaping assortment of candy and snacks for sale. (The lounge doesn’t sell alcohol.) But despite the statewide legalization of marijuana, some smokers still feel there is a stigma.
“Everyone has this idea of who the pothead is — and that’s not the case at all,” says Moon, who wants The Summit Lounge to be a place where members can smoke freely, without judgment.
Matt Pavini, 38, who lives in Northborough, visits the club about twice per week. He says he got a medical recommendation for marijuana after suffering nerve damage from a 2015 car accident. He lives with his parents, who don’t allow him to smoke inside the house, and was tired of smoking outdoors, especially in the cold. “We need to have more people willing to come out of the cannabis closet,” he says.
Not everyone shares that sentiment. In February, City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. said in a statement that Moon failed to disclose to the city that he would be operating a private club that allows marijuana consumption, and accused him of exploiting a loophole in the law.
“I never felt in the process that there was any miscommunication or bad blood,” Moon says.
According to city spokesman Michael Vigneux, the lounge appears to be operating legally. However, a zoning amendment has been presented to the Worcester City Council that would require future private “bring your own” marijuana clubs to apply for a special permit. The council has given initial approval to the amendment, which will likely go through final passage at a June 26 meeting, Vigneux says. Should it pass, Vigneux says, The Summit Lounge would be grandfathered in. Vigneux is not aware of any other private pot clubs in the works in Worcester.
Of his Summit Lounge, Moon says, “I’m just doing something that should have been done a long time ago.”Nicole DeFeudis is a Globe correspondent. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.