- Nat Stein
- DL²’s slogan scrawled nearby: “Be funny or die trying.”
First, some tangled history: The owners of the recently closed Family Joint, Travis Perkins and Stephanie Durr, used to run a club called 420 Speakeasy at 1532 N. Circle Drive. The club’s members included Dan Goodman, who became a vendor at the club, selling dab mats to patrons. When Perkins left 420 Speakeasy, saying he “didn’t see eye to eye with [his] business partners” (who also happen to be the landlords, according to property and business records), Goodman, then a night manager, bought it. That’s when it became the Dab Lounge — summer of 2015.
The change in ownership brought with it a change in vibe. Goodman, a die-hard comedy fan from New York, bought some arcade games for the place, started booking comedy shows and hosting regular video game tournaments. “We wanted to weed out any seedy element … make a place for people to laugh,” Goodman told the Indy’s Griffin Swartzell at the time. Ben Verbeck, now general manager for the Dab Lounge, says that when Perkins left 420 Speakeasy, he took a bunch of Goodman’s dabbing gear with him. Perkins denies that.
Soon after, Perkins and Durr, then a couple, opened a new club at 125 N. Spruce St. That club, the Family Joint, was Grateful Dead-themed, replete with live music, yoga classes and fire poi sessions. Perkins says that when the city began offering marijuana consumption club licenses last year, he sold his share of the company to Durr so he could do business in Los Angeles instead. Durr went ahead and got the Family Joint licensed, while Goodman, over at the Dab Lounge, opted not submit to the city’s rules.
Licensure has proven a strange but critical juncture in the cannabis club scene where, at this point, the licensed clubs have all either closed or transformed, while the unlicensed clubs have kept up business as usual, despite a year-old “cease and desist” order and a “contempt of court” ruling this spring. With at least one exception, they’re still open, operational and supplying cannabis to paying members, while law enforcement stands by, waiting for the court proceedings to wrap. A trial is scheduled for Sept. 18.
Though licensed, the Family Joint got bogged down in other legal matters, the heaviest being a lawsuit from an investor, Frank Dillard, who alleges the club’s founders defrauded him out of $20,000 in start-up cash and other monetary contributions to the company. In the absence of a signed operating agreement, according to the lawsuit filed by Adam Weitzel with the Business Law Group, Dillard should be entitled to at least 90 percent of the company’s profits and losses (given the LLC’s other members appear to have contributed less than 10 percent of the company’s capital, despite promises to put in more).
“One hundred percent of his accusations are false,” Perkins says, adding, “I’m looking forward to our day in court.” It’s scheduled for January.
Meanwhile this past May, the police raided a small yoga studio right next to the Family Joint. Durr, who couldn’t be reached for this story, denied any affiliation with the studio, but Perkins reckons that “for members going [to the Family Joint] already worried about legality, to have law enforcement flying through the door looking for neighbors [was] a deterrent for sure.”
When the Family Joint closed for good last month, Goodman, already in search of a second location, moved on its near Westside spot. Walkable from downtown, the location is desirable and, crucially, owned by a landlord already comfortable renting to canna-businesses. “It’s not the nicest part of town,” says Verbeck of the proximity to the Marian House soup kitchen and a half-way house on Bijou Street. “But we’re trying to, you know, stay positive and help clean up the neighborhood.”
The Dab Lounge 2, or DL² for short, is now open, already hosting comedy shows in an atmosphere much like the original Dab Lounge’s. Open mic and poker nights are planned as well.
“We see it as a comedy club first and a cannabis club second,” says Verbeck, himself a comic, adding that the Dab Lounge has played no small part in growing the Springs’s fledgling comedy circuit. Between the two locations, Verbeck says they plan to host a show every night starting soon.
The new location will operate just like the original, which charges a membership fee and supplies cannabis, Verbeck says, adding that DL² will “take over” the Family Joint’s license, which he claims is held by Frank Dillard. The city clerk’s records list “THE FAMILY JOINT, LLC” as the licensee. That LLC, according to the Secretary of State’s records, is held by Stephanie Durr, though Dillard’s lawsuit requests a “declaratory judgment determining the respective membership interests of each of the members of the company.”
In response to the Indy’s inquiry, city clerk Sarah Johnson pointed to city code stating that “No marijuana consumption club license granted or renewed shall be transferable from one person to another or from one location to another” and declined to comment further, citing the city’s ongoing litigation against the Dab Lounge and other unlicensed clubs.
Legal matters aside, how does it feel to move into a rivals’ old digs? The Dab Lounge crew has already painted over the Dead-inspired murals left over from the Family Joint days and begun dishing out jokes about the situation. “We like making fun of [Durr and Perkins]” Verbeck says, “because, you know, that’s how we get over things — by making light of it and laughing.”
He even hinted that Goodman, et al. has been eying the same spots in L.A. that Perkins is supposedly looking at for his West Coast 420 Speakeasy.