At Moe Greens, What’s Old is New Again

San Francisco’s newest cannabis lounge and dispensary juxtaposes nostalgia and high tech.

Moe Greens Cannabis Lounge and Dispensary Lobby
Images: Nick Waller Photography

Moe Greens is a standout in a California city known for standouts. The mid-century luxe space in San Francisco is a feast for the eyes—and a trip down memory lane.

Wanting to create an ambiance that his great-grandparents would have enjoyed, founder and Chief Executive Officer Nate Haas decked out the dispensary and consumption lounge in vintage diner splendor: weightless finishings, large-paned glass, exposed brick, lots of brass, classic cherry-red bar stools, and shiny green leather booths. “We paid a lot of attention to balance and detailing, because the visual aesthetic is a big part of the lounge experience,” Haas said. “I think that’s one of the things that makes us unique. It’s a nod to post-[World War II], pre-Summer-of-Love, ring-a-ding-ding San Francisco.”

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The experience starts with the lobby, decorated in clubby, velvet-rope style. Haas chose to install a lobby not just to help customer flow, but also create the impression guests are about to enter a special place. Moe’s is in a trendy part of town, on Market Street, the main artery that snakes through the hustle and bustle surrounding the civic center, City Hall, and Twitter and Uber headquarters. The “dope” avocado-hued booths, custom made by B&L Seating, set a mid-twentieth-century throwback aesthetic, transporting customers into another era. “The booths are actually a throwback to when we were kids and our parents would take us to classic San Francisco restaurants,” Hass said. “We would be sitting in the booths at these restaurants getting our sugar high on from the Shirley Temples. We wanted to recreate that formative time from our youth, and our custom avocado-green booths are our best attempt to try and build that same aesthetic.”

In fact, Haas even broke out the old family photo albums for inspiration. At the same time, he realized the shop should balance vintage with what’s happening now in San Francisco—and that’s high tech. “Our WiFi is strong and secure, and we have charging ports at every booth,” he said. “You can literally work from here. This is a renaissance time for cannabis. We may look fancy, but we’re all things to all people.”

Moe Greens cannabis lounge area
Patrons may consume concentrated cannabis extracts in The Vault.

Haas is no stranger to cannabis retail. In 2013, he and his team opened Barbary Coast Dispensary on Mission Street, a speakeasy-style lounge that evokes an old saloon. The spot quickly became a must-visit destination, known as much for its design as for the attentive staff. Having endured the trials and errors of that launch, Haas had a clearer vision for what he wanted Moe’s to be. Intoxicating liquor tops the list of things Moe’s won’t tolerate: Alcoholic beverages are not allowed inside, and those who appear to be inebriated may be asked to take a breathalyzer test. “If you can’t drive, you probably shouldn’t be in here,” said Haas.

Moe’s sells only medicated food and drink but allows patrons to bring in sandwiches, pizzas, and other munchables. The dress code is eclectic: Although most customers wear casual or business attire, Haas said older ladies and gentlemen dressed to the nines frequently stop in on their way to or from a nearby opera or art exhibition. “We have a sort of litmus test [for behavior and attire] here,” Haas said. “We want [to maintain] a place our own mothers would be comfortable at.” In fact, his mom visited on opening night and gave her approval of the décor and environment.

Combining lounge and dispensary called for some clever sectioning. The dispensary is a vital part of the business, but the main showcase and bigger part of Moe’s is the consumption lounge, which is broken down into three areas: The Playground, The Vault, and The High Roller room. The Playground is the largest space, dedicated to vaping and limited smoking. That’s the room with the most USB outlets. The space incorporates an HVAC system that constantly pumps in fresh air to keep consumers and their equipment free of tell-tale marijuana smell. The Vault is a dab lounge staffed at all times with dabtenders who help customers and disinfect and clean rigs. In The High Roller, people may consume more traditional combustibles and smoke flower. “We provide all the weaponry—papers, grinders, bongs, pipes—so you can relax in style,” Haas said.

The floors, custom terrazzo by Associated Terrazzo, are old-school cool. They mesh seamlessly with exposed brick original to the early-1900s building. “We’re very lucky to show off the original bones of this place,” Haas said. Workmen added kitschy gold wallpaper to give the overall color scheme some punch.

Haas and his team selected Jonathan Adler Sputnik ceiling lights that ever so slightly reflect the wallpaper and discreetly catch the sparkle in the floor. The chandeliers appear to be floating from the ceiling. “This time period we’re referencing is right in the middle of the Space Race,” Haas said, “so you’ll notice lots of star- and planet-shaped elements.” To tie everything together, the team added mid-century Douglas fir wood paneling—but there’s no art on the walls. “We’re doing simple,” Haas said. “All-natural beauty…having the space itself be the art.”

Moe Greens High Roller lounge table with cannabis products displayed
The High Roller room is for those who prefer to light up.

The biggest challenge, said Haas, was determining how to display product without intruding on the “curated experience” Moe Greens wanted to convey. The solution: Have budtenders perform somewhat like waiters. “We want to assist seasoned smokers who know exactly what they want, and we want first-timers to feel safe and confident in their choices,” he said. “And we still want patients to have access to effective medicine.”

The menu includes an extensive selection of trendy infused products from Bloom Farms, Big Pete’s, Care by Design, Mary’s Medicinals, California Dreamin’, Terra, and Kiva, among others. In extracts, Moe’s offers everything from Beezle to Gold Drop to Fire King and Heady. But it’s the flower selection for which Moe’s has become especially well known. Customers enjoy not only a long list of traditional favorites but also hard-to-find strains like Caviar Moon Rock’s Rad Berry, Fog City Farms’ Clementine, Flow Kana’s Orange Creamsicle, and Highness Gardens’ Purple Urkle. Moe Greens branded merchandise is available, too: hats, bongs, dab caps, T-shirts and blankets, all of which Haas suggested make good gifts.

The uncommon convergence of past with present, retail with lounge, apparently struck a chord. “Business is booming,” Haas said, “and we get as many tourists as we do locals. Cool, huh?”

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