With the growing cannabis industry comes innovation, moving beyond the typical retail dispensary model and introducing new concepts like cannabis-friendly hotels, consumption sites and…cannabis strip clubs?

While it’s still in the early stages, two entrepreneurs in Whately, Massachusetts are hoping to turn their current strip club into a topless cannabis dispensary. Should the vision of owners Nick Spagnola and Julius Sokol come to fruition, Club Castaway would be the first business of its kind in the country.

“The market is very saturated. There are a lot of operators, and everyone is offering the same experience,” Spagnola told the Boston Business Journal. “This is definitely a way to stand out while also keeping the spirit of the existing business alive.”

Spagnola and Sokol initially bought the club in 2019. The Business Journal reports that the club shut down during the initial days of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 and have yet to reopen. The Greenfield Recorder first reported the news of Spagnola and Sokol’s business idea as it was pitched before the Whately Select Board earlier in February.

Prior to its 2020 closure, the business only operated for a few months. A group of prospective new owners came for the Selectboard early last year, though they ultimately withdrew their application in April 2022. The business still holds its entertainment and alcohol licenses, though shifting gears to embrace cannabis would require a number of steps before it could properly and legally open. 

Spagnola told the Recorder that he and Sokol had agreed to terms to purchase ChineDiamond LLC, a cannabis dispensary permitted to open at 85 State Road, not too far from Club Castaway’s location at 226 State Road. The business partners will first need to file a change of location request with the state’s Cannabis Control Commission. 

Topless Dispensary Concept Hurdles in Massachusetts

If approved, Club Castaway must appear before the Zoning Board of Appeals, given that its building use is changing, to secure a special permit, Town Administrator Brian Domina told the Recorder. From there, the owners said they would need to amend their adult entertainment license to remove dancing and alcohol while maintaining the topless service. 

Should everything go according to plan, Club Castaway would be one of more than 200 dispensaries in the state, though the owners believe this novel concept might give them an edge in the market. 

“We do have some experience on the cannabis side and some on the nudity side,” Spagnola said, adding that their business could help to bring cannabis tourism to Whately  “We want to replace this night club scene and alcohol with something that is harmless in comparison.”

When the concept was first pitched, Selectboard member Julianna Waggoner questioned how exactly the new business model would work, given the change in environment, and who would be topless during business hours. Spagnola said that the business never had a shortage of employees looking for work and that he and Sokol are “confident” they could create a protocol for a safe working environment. 

The initial pitch was also meant to inform the town of their plans to reopen while also sharing their new vision for the space. Selectboard Chair Joyce Palmer-Fortune thanked the business owners for the update on their plans for the business, adding that they will need to face “a lot of legal questions” ahead. Another Selectboad member, Fred Baron, said the requirements could be revisited when “we have firmed plans” to discuss.”

Palmer-Fortune told the pair of business owners, “Mission accomplished, you’ve updated us on what your plans are,” adding that the Selectboard isn’t the last word on the proposal anyway.

The two business owners expect to reopen within the next 60 days, albeit under the existing business model to start.

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