Owner Arthur Sanoyan has worked in the entertainment industry in Vegas and L.A. That’s important to note — because when you step into Taboo Lounge for the first time, you may think you’ve left Charlotte for a moment.
However, he’s no stranger to the Charlotte scene either, having worked in 32 nightlife venues in the city. “I decided to do a crazy split with an upscale lounge on one side and a retail store on the other. The name Taboo works perfect with two evils under the same roof,” he said, referring to both liquor and smoke sales.
Sanoyan owns a smoke shop by the same name in Pineville, and he said he saw a need to add a smaller retail space inside of the Interstate 277 loop.
Taboo Lounge will open at 7 a.m., serving sand coffee and offering Wifi to those wanting to utilize the space for work. Traditionally, sand coffee was a Turkish-style method of preparing coffee using heat from desert sand, Sanoyan said.
Taboo will also serve craft cocktails by mixologist Todd Bayley. Many will feature CBD, including one called Buzz City, a honey CBD craft cocktail with Hendrick’s Gin and butterfly pea tea; and another called Cat Scratch Fever, a tequila-based cocktail with simple pearl dust, activated charcoal, lemonade and a blue CBD pixie-stick rim.
As hemp and CBD continue to gain in popularity, it seems only natural that retailers would begin to consider how to incorporate those experiential products into their shops. High-end restaurants and bodegas alike are getting in on the trend — Haberdish, 15th Street Market, Lenny Boy Brewing Co., Living Kitchen, Mitty’s Café and Smooth Monkey are among others in Charlotte offering CBD as a food or beverage ingredient. Charlotte CBD is now open on Central Avenue and local companies such as Prime Sunshine serve as growers and distributors of the product.
In addition to CBD cocktails, Sanoyan will serve by-the-scoop CBD ice cream. “Now that hemp is becoming legal, we’re starting slowly with 1-2 CBD drinks right now, but if it’s something people enjoy, we can see about edibles as a garnish, etc.,” Sanoyan said.
L.A. Vapors is also prominently featuring CBD and hemp products, with at least 8 strains of hemp flower and hundreds of CBD products.
FDA restrictions aren’t detrimental, vape shop owners say
Even as the Food and Drug Administration last week announced plans to clamp down on tobacco enforcement, the growth of smoke shops in Charlotte don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
In an attempt to protect youth, the FDA announced plans on Thursday to ban menthol cigarettes and many flavored small cigars, and it recommended further restrictions on sales of sweet-flavored electronic cigarette liquid. This news earned support from a few Charlotte-area vape shop owners, some of whom said convenience stores will likely be affected by the new regulations more than vape shops.
Alohma, LLC founder Sam Salaymeh said his company is the largest U.S. vape shop owner, with 113 shops total including 20 Madvapes shops in the Charlotte area. “That for us is a beautiful thing. Most of the steps that have been highlighted are regarding limiting access to youth vaping, smoking, nicotine consumption. We very much support limiting access to the youth.”
Salaymeh is meeting with the FDA in December to discuss technologies that would help limit transactions from occurring without a valid government ID. These technologies are currently being tested out in the Charlotte Madvapes shops, and if all goes well, will be rolled out to the rest of Alohma’s shops in the country and eventually the ones in Germany and Ireland.
“Our headquarters is in Mooresville, so it’s very easy for us to test in Mooresville and Charlotte. New technology will prevent human error,” he said.
Infinity’s End owner Frank Pietras said the company has always been proactive with preventing underage access to tobacco, e-cigarette liquids and e-pods. “As a longtime tobacco retail shop, Infinity’s End expects to continue the sale of Juul products and approved e-liquids and does not expect to be forced to discontinue the sale of all flavored e-liquids as is expected to happen to all convenience stores and gas stations,” Pietras said.
Juul Labs announced last week it would no longer sell most of its flavored e-cigarette pods in retail stores and it would discontinue using social media. “We stopped accepting retail orders for our Mango, Fruit, Creme, and Cucumber JUUL pods to the over 90,000 retail stores that sell our product, including traditional tobacco retailers (e.g., convenience stores) and specialty vape shops,” CEO Kevin Burns stated in a letter on the company website.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CNBC that sales of flavored e-cigs could be limited to vape shops, which he said do a better job of checking identification than convenience stores.
At the new Gateway Village spot, L.A. Vapors won’t sell cigarettes, choosing instead to focus on hemp and vape products that help relieve tobacco addiction, Sanoyan said. “Costumers have not only quit 45-year-long habits but have decided not to vape either, once the urge was killed by dropping the nicotine levels by using vaping products,” he said.
“They [the FDA] have been coming up with restrictions since 2015, planning more and more,” Sanoyan said. “We work with companies that have certain things in place to fight against it and watch it closely to make sure everything we do is legal and by regulations.”