The owners of a Massachusetts strip club are hoping to open what could potentially be the country's first topless weed store.
Nick Spagnola and Julius Sokol, joint owners of Club Castaway in Whately, detailed their new plans to the town's Select Board at a recent meeting. Club Castaway originally opened at the beginning of 2020, but was forced to close within months due to the Covid pandemic. Now, after being closed for nearly three years, the club is finally ready to reopen. But instead of returning to business as usual, the owners are trying to make a bold and innovative pivot.
At the meeting, Spagnola and Sokol told the Select Board that they are hoping to replace the booze-fueled atmosphere of their strip club with a greener alternative. Sokol already owns several cannabis dispensaries in eastern Massachusetts, so the owners have hatched a plan to combine these two separate businesses into one. The proposed new business would do away with full nudity and dancing and stick solely to topless service.
The business partners have already agreed to purchase Shine Diamond LLC, a local dispensary. Under their new plan, they would combine the dispensary and the strip club into one topless pot shop, rather than running them as two separate businesses. As part of the transition, the club would give up its liquor license in order to comply with state laws that bar weed and alcohol from being sold in the same establishment.
“We’re leaning toward cannabis with a twist… There are a lot of dispensaries open and you need a niche to be successful,” Spagnola told the town board members, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette. “We do have some experience on the cannabis side and some on the nudity side... We want to replace this night club scene and alcohol with something that is harmless in comparison.”
The business owners haven't decided exactly how they plan to incorporate nudity into their cannabis plans, though. Topless budtenders could be an option, or the club could choose to add traditional strippers to the dispensary experience. But regardless of which option they pick, Spagnola said that he is confident that the club will be able to hire staff.
“It may surprise you, we’ve never had a shortage of employees who wanted to work at Castaways,” he told the board, according to the Gazette. “We’re confident we could create a protocol for a safe working environment.”
Cannabis dispensaries and strip clubs actually already have a lot in common. State regulations require both kinds of businesses to be completely closed off from public view, and both are restricted to ages 21 and up. High security is a must at either business, too, thanks to the large amount of cash floating around. Federal law forces all state-legal weed businesses to operate on a cash-only basis, which provides plenty of change for patrons to give cash tips.
The Select Board has yet to decide whether or not they will approve the topless dispensary. And even if they do, Spagnola and Sokol still have a long road ahead of them. The owners would need to sort out all of the relevant legal issues before they could open, and the state Cannabis Control Commission and Zoning Board would both have to sign off on their plans as well.