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West Hollywood Synagogue Raises Concern Over Next Door Cannabis Restaurant

The rooftop restaurant is hoping that air filtration will prevent any smoke from wafting into its neighbors property

Renderings for Lowell Cafe restaurant in West Hollywood
Lowell Cafe
Courtesy of Lowell Herb Co.
Mona Holmes is a reporter for Eater Los Angeles and a regular contributor to KCRW radio. She has covered restaurants, dining, and food culture since 2016. In 2022, the James Beard Foundation nominated her for a Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award.

Just as Southern California’s first cannabis restaurant prepares to open, a potential protest could delay its fall opening. Lowell Farms: A Cannabis Café is a full-service rooftop restaurant where Andrea Drummer will create a THC/CBD menu, along with a smoking area. But an adjacent synagogue isn’t happy about Lowell Cafe being stationed less than 300 feet from the congregation.

According to Wehoville, the Business License Commission meets on July 16 at 7 p.m. to consider whether Lowell Cafe and another cannabis cafe Pleasure Med LLC can operate within WeHo city limits. Pleasure Med plans to sell recreational and medical cannabis, and maintain a cannabis lounge that welcomes smoking, vaping, and edibles consumption.

But Jewish synagogue Congregation Kol Ami has raised concern with the cannabis restaurant across the street. Kol Ami is worried about members who are in families with children, in addition to members who are participating in a 12-Step addiction program. The synagogue also hosts Friday night rooftop dinners, which would essentially be right next to Lowell Cafe.

Kol Ami’s Rabbi Eger sent an email to City Council members with the following concerns.

“The business is to have outdoor space for smoking pot—and I don’t know why my congregation members and participants have to walk through clouds of marijuana to get to synagogue...It will limit the use of our outdoor space as well because of the contact high from the smoke that will waft in the area. We have no objections to people buying marijuana for their private use in their domains. We know that many people including our congregants use and enjoy cannabis. Some for health and some for recreation.”

In response, West Hollywood’s Community and Legislative Affairs Manager, John Leonard, defended Lowell Cafe. He cited that any cannabis consumption would not be detectable outside of the property because Lowell installed an air purification system and fragrant plants to absorb smoke odors.

It’s been a long haul for this new wave of cannabis consumption lounges. In April, WeHo began accepting applications for cannabis delivery services, dispensaries, and consumption lounges. These businesses received approval in December, which allowed for eight edibles-only consumption cafes, and eight consumption lounges where cannabis smoking, vaping, and edibles can be consumed on-site. Applicants shelled out tens of thousands of dollars in order to be eligible to receive these permits.

When reached for comment, Lowell Cafe’s general manager Kevin Brady shared the following.

“We understand the concerns from Congregation Kol Ami and want to put them and anyone else at ease. We are respectful of the neighborhood and are committed to ensure any cannabis scent generated from our property doesn’t impact our neighbors. We screened countless air filtration proposals and selected a system that specializes in local capture — similar to what’s used in a luxury Las Vegas hotel, chemical lab, or hospital. In addition to the custom air filtration system we are planting air purifying and odor absorbing landscaping as an additional precaution. We will have two patios and our street facing patio (closest Congregation Kol Ami) will be for our non-smoking guests. We understand the end of cannabis prohibition and the new kinds of businesses that are created from it ending can be scary. We intend to show that an establishment which allows for cannabis consumption can be as great a neighbor as any other business. We welcome the concerns and support of the neighborhood as we know all of this is uncharted.”

If Lowell Cafe’s space looks familiar, that’s because it took over Loreley biergarten, which closed in early 2018. The space has been unoccupied for over a year.

Lowell Farms: A Cannabis Café. 1201 N. La Brea Ave