By Hollie Ernest
I hear low male voices as I walk up to the Eco Cann Dispensary storefront on F Street in Old Town Eureka, a little intimidated at first. The door quickly unlocks and a glance around reveals a tidy dispensary with familiar bags and goodies stacked in glass cases and hanging on display. There’s a dog near the door and another one curled up in his bed behind the counter. The budtender helps some first-time customers pick out what suits them best. I overhear 60-something customers say, “This is a first for me.” The packaging from distributors cleverly resembles snack packaging like CornNuts and gummy bears, which I can only assume makes folks new to cannabis and our area more comfortable buying their still-illegal-in-many-states items.
With Clark Kent glasses, a Hawaiian shirt and flat bill cap, the budtender seems more like a weed study buddy than a salesperson. After a little browsing, I am escorted next door to High Tide Cannabis Lounge, the main attraction for my visit. The lounge lies just inside frosted glass windows on the corner of F and Third streets.
In 2019, the Eureka City Council voted 4-0, passing an ordinance allowing indoor cannabis smoking lounges, despite reservations over secondhand smoke and indoor smoking regulations. Though company manager Ray Markland was ready to start, soon came the global pandemic to ground us all. Three years later, High Tide Cannabis Lounge gets to claim its title as the first indoor smoking lounge in Humboldt County, opening its doors on 4/20 of this year. Papa & Barkley in South Eureka was the first lounge to open in 2021, but it’s an outdoor setup.
I walked into High Tide expecting a darkly lit bar and the smell of weed stuck in shag carpet, but it’s quite the opposite. Like a bar in an airport lounge, it is brightly lit and impeccably clean with, thanks to a high-powered HVAC system, almost zero trace of cannabis scent. It smells faintly like burnt kale but only if you’re really looking for a scent.
There are booths with black pleather seats and high tables with stools, all outfitted with an ashtray and sleek, black grinder. The Simpsons was playing on two of three large screen TVs while a lone customer dabbed from a gravity bong. The lounge’s smiling budtender immediately put me at ease. I can tell she likes her job, as she enthusiastically answers my questions, no matter how naive. A low-tech person in general, I have to ask what the hell a gravity bong is. She patiently explains and demonstrates the German technology, telling me it’s one of the big draws of the lounge, since the bongs aren’t easy to come by. We both watch the water move (with gravity, duh) from one chamber to the next. The displacement of air from the upper chamber to the lower chamber pushes smoke out, into the smoker’s mouth. She showed me the different pieces for smoking fresh bud and dabs, all of which you can buy next door.
Only products bought at Eco Cann are allowed in the lounge, though you can bring your own pipes or bongs, if you like. Looking at the vast collection behind the bar, I don’t know why you would bother. There are all shapes and sizes of smoking pieces, a rainbow of blown glass art there for your use. There’s even one in the shape of a huge purple fish that I’m told was inspired by a dream. The wall art is tasteful, minimal and painted directly on the wall: a crab holding a massive bud and a cute sea otter holding a bong. I love the North Coast.
With its Old Town location, customers can come here to mellow out after work or for a little pre-dinner happy hour. For those who want to stay longer, the lounge offers a short list of stoner snacks like soda, chips, Red Bull, ice cream and a few pre-packaged pastries. There’s even a Keurig-type machine that brews cups of weed-infused coffee from pods sold next door. The lounge currently hosts Puff and Paint night during Arts Alive on the first Saturday of each month, where you get a free canvas and paint, sponsored by Up North Distributors. Check the calendar on the website for more events down the road.