Published on April 17th, 2014 | by gatsbyadmin0
The Smoking Speakeasy
A secret door is set into the wall, disguised by shelves and filled with products. A short, dimly-lit hall with regular insets displaying glass art ends in an entry blocked with thick black curtains. As you get closer, the very air around you seems hazier and the sound of voices emanates from the space beyond the dark material. No, this is not an opium den, nor is there an Oz the great and powerful behind the curtain. This is the Headroom Gallery, a members-only club for the most discerning cannabis enthusiasts.
A wood-grain L-shaped bar curves around the perimeter of the bar which features a large flat screen television mounted in a frame. Behind the bar, along with snacks, drinks (root beer on tap!) and some of the coolest “bartenders” you’ll ever meet, is an amazing collection of glass; all different shapes and sizes, featuring some beautiful custom work. There are stools all along the bar and the floor is scattered with tabletops and chairs, each topped with an ashtray and wineglass that contains rig-rags and alcohol wipes. In the corner there is a small stage surrounded by a couch and a couple of armchairs. Although on the small side, it’s a beautiful room with the definitive air of a hidden club.
Although this may not be the land of Oz, the Headroom Gallery has its own wizards of sorts. These men run one of the most exclusive places in the cannabis community, the closest thing to a modern day speakeasy (substituting, of course, marijuana for alcohol). One of the owners of the gallery – whose identity will remain a mystery – was gracious enough to sit down with me and answer a few questions I had about this one-of-a-kind venue.
Danielle Erin: What exactly is The Headroom Gallery and where did the idea for it come from?
Owner of Gallery: The idea has been around as long as weed has been illegal. It’s the idea of a safe place for people to congregate and medicate. So, longer than we’ve been alive this idea has been around. It’s a private membership club for people who are typically in the industry or very close to the medical marijuana industry.
DE: When did this location actually open?
OG: About six or seven months ago, after about a four and a half, five month build out. It took quite a while; we redid everything in this place. There were walls in here before us. We started with an empty shell but everything that you see was built twice. We built the bar and were like, “no, we’ve gotta make it cooler and we’ve gotta add this to it”, so every little feature has been redone.
DE: It sounds like there was a lot of time put into it; time and effort.
OG: Yeah, to make it as custom as possible for what it is because there’s nothing like this that existed yet.
DE: Do you guys have medicine available for purchase here or is it simply a venue?
OG: It’s just a venue. It’s a private club, is what it is, and you bring your own meds and you buy the space and the pipes to smoke out of. You can rent different calibers of glass art or utensils, accessories, etc., which depend on your membership level as well.
DE: Yeah, I see there’s a lot of really nice glass here. Is all of it available for rent?
OG: Yes, you can hit anything in the room.
DE: Do you guys hold any events here?
OG: Yeah, we do Tuesday night Comedy Night, Thursday night DJs, we have a podcast on Sundays and we’ll be having a 4/20 party as well. We’re constantly looking for new fun things to throw in the mix without being too cliche.
DE: So how does somebody gain entrance to this place? What’s the process?
OG: Word of mouth. You’ve gotta know somebody, who knows somebody, who knows somebody. If someone’s been here and you’re a friend and they’re willing to stick their neck out for you, you’ll have the opportunity to come in. And that’s to ensure that one, the people that are here are of a certain caliber that is going to, you know, contribute. You’re not going to have a homeless person standing next to Oprah, or something like that. But also at the same time, it’s to make sure that the space itself is safe for us as proprietors as well the people who are here. People here need a safe place to do this and not everyone wants to be open about it. Having respect for the space and what goes on inside of it is a big deal in deciding who is allowed access.
DE: Is there a target demographic?
OG: Typically its going to be mostly males in their mid-twenties but, you know, you’ll come in here on comedy night and see everybody of all walks of life; different shapes, sizes and ages. That’s kinda the beauty of it. We’re not trying to go after anyone in particular, we’re trying to go after the people that we believe have a desire and an entitlement to a space like this because there’s a lot of people who have contributed to this industry that still have to you know, go into their garage to medicate. And why in in the hell is there not a safe space for those responsible people to socialize and medicate at the same time?
DE: So you would say that’s kind of the point of having a space like this?
OG: I mean, its a business, so obviously the intent is to do business and make money, but the bigger picture here is this can serve as a platform for the people within the community to organize and figure out what’s going on with each other. Because one of the biggest problems in our industry up until this point has been a lack of collaboration, a lack or organization, a lack of knowing what needs to be done to further our movement. It’s been all these little sects of the movement, and this place is serving as that alignment point where everybody gathers and moves forward, hopefully as one.
DE: I know this is the only place I’ve heard of like this. Is this the only venue, to your knowledge, that actually does anything similar?
OG: There’s a couple of others, actually. Some of them are dispensaries that are still, depending on their locale, breaking or not breaking local laws. There’s another one within Los Angeles as well that is the same kind of thing as us, just not as exclusive. But you bring your own meds and its a space to medicate, they have events and all that stuff. So the other kind of intent here is that it’ll serve as a model so that legislators can come in and see, “Look, this works. Its taxable, its safe, its better than alcohol and its wanted.”
DE: There’s a demand for it.
DE: Are there any future plans in the works for The Headroom Gallery?
OG: Constantly trying to figure out how to expand it, make it a better space to serve the community. And right now we’re just trying to figure out how to get more people in here on a consistent basis. We just want to make sure people enjoy it during the day as much as they do for our events. Sometimes it’s hard to judge that, you know? As it is something completely new, we’re learning all along the way. Its been a complete learning experience…the curve is very harsh to us. But hopefully the pay off will be big and yeah, I mean, my next step would be to open one that’s ten times bigger. That’s what we want to do, absolutely.
DE: Is there any particular place, like social media, where people can find you?
OG: @headroomgallery on Instagram and that’s it.
DE: And that’s it. All right, well thank you for allowing me to interview you and enjoy the Headroom Gallery.
OG: Thanks for stopping by.
The Headroom Gallery is a place well-worth visiting if you’re able to find a way in. The atmosphere is friendly and laid-back and the events feature an impressive line-up of performers. The level of Gatsby is extremely high at this location and we are privileged to see behind the curtain. Tuesday nights have seen visits from comedians such as Anthony Jeselnik, Donnell Rawlings, Brody Stevens and Ari Shaffir while the podcast on Sundays, Getting High With, is hosted by Adam Ill, formerly of The Potcast.
As the owner said, Instagram is the only place to find them and the only way to get in is by knowing someone who already has a connection to the place. So the next time you’re in Los Angeles, maybe you can try finding someone who has been to the exclusive Headroom Gallery and is willing to vouch for you; just make sure you know the secret password…
Written By: Danielle Erin