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After 17 months trudging through federal weeds, Aromas Hookah Bar in DeKalb to launch bring your own marijuana Friday

Owner says the product can only stay with the buds in your party

DeKALB – Cameron Dye, one of the owners of Aromas Hookah Bar in DeKalb, said it has been a long year-and-a-half trying to hash out his bring-your-own-marijuana business plan to the smoke joint, but he’s on track to put the plan in motion this week.

Dye retraced his steps from when the DeKalb City Council first approved in February 2020 the ordinance amendments that would allow him to welcome patrons to bring their own marijuana and smoke it in his hookah bar at 811 W. Lincoln Highway. Since then, he said he talked with city police about how it would work in practice and he answered whatever questions and concerns police had.

Then came the major snag in the business’s plan when the building was up for sale, Dye said.

“We are renting this place, everybody in this complex rents,” Dye said. “We found out that our bank actually owned the trust to this building, this entire property, including the property next door. Them being federal, they said, ‘No, you cannot do it.’ ... That was the big hold up.”

Once the building was purchased from the bank, Dye said he was able to move ahead with his bring-your-own-marijuana business model starting Friday, June 25. He clarified marijuana will not be sold at the hookah bar, with it being a marijuana related business no-touch facility.

“We will not touch your product that you bring to us – only you touch it,” Dye said. “We are charging you for a space. So you bring your stuff, you pack it however you want to and you do what you need to for you to, as safely and as responsible as you can, enjoy.”

With the city code changes made more than a year ago, smoking marijuana is allowed in areas already designated for smoking tobacco, such as private residences, retail tobacco stores already in existence before the law change – as long as they comply with existing restrictions including age and quantity – and designated smoking rooms like Aromas.

The next closest hookah bar offering a place for marijuana smokers is Springfield, Dye said.

Dye said it was particularly important to implement the new model coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said there wasn’t a lot of financial support available for shops like his and bringing in bring-your-own-marijuana was a good way to keep his business afloat.

“We had to do everything,” Dye said. “I put blood, sweat, tears, time, my own money to keep it going, along with my other partners.”

How it works

Dye said the shop will be cash only and there will be an ATM from a local credit union on premises. He said customers who walk in with the intent to smoke marijuana will have to prove they are 21 years old or older and will have to sign a waiver that says they purchased the marijuana they want to smoke at the hookah bar legally.

“Because we will not be able to prove it was purchased legally or illegally,” Dye said.

Dye said smokers can expect to pay $12 for the first two hours if they want to smoke marijuana in his establishment, and then $7 for every hour after that during weekdays. On the weekends, he anticipates charging $15 for the first two hours and $10 for each additional hour.

Dye said customers will be able to bring their own weed cigarettes, bowls or bongs to smoke in the hookah bar but edibles will not be allowed, since the high is not as immediate and depends on the user’s metabolism. He said sanitized bowls and bongs will be available to rent as well.

Dye said any remaining product that customers want to leave with must leave the shop sealed.

“We’re going to have containers available that people can purchase, to put it into a sealable container,” Dye said.

Dye said the shop will keep an eye on smokers and will reserve the right to stop serving customers who overindulge.

“We’ll be advertising Lyft, Uber, the bus schedule ... on our wall, with QR codes,” Dye said. “So that way, they can try anything but drive.”

Marijuana will need to be transported to the bar in compliance with the law, in a sealed and odorless container, and up to the legal limit. That limit is 30 grams for cannabis flower, five grams for concentrate, and edibles limited to 500 milligrams of THC.

“It applies for the vehicle, too,” DeKalb Police Cmdr. Steve Lekkas said in February 2020. “So you can’t just buy an eighth of an ounce at a store, open it up at home, and then take some of it and throw it in a bag to bring to the bar. They have to go directly to the bar while it’s still sealed.”

Northern Illinois University announced in late 2019 they would continue to prohibit marijuana consumption on campus regardless of Illinois law. Dye pointed to those regulations when addressing those who may ask what the point of smoking at the shop is when people could just do it at home.

“Not everybody here in this town can,” Dye said. “This town is full of apartments. NIU is a smoke-free campus.”

Overall, Dye is excited to open up bring-your-own-marijuana to the public.

“I think this is a future-making thing – like this will make or break my life,” Dye said. “Not too many people know that moment in their life, whether it goes well for them or horrible for them. I think this is a clear indication of which one that’s gonna be for me.”

• Daily Chronicle editor Kelsey Rettke contributed to this report.