A bring-your-own marijuana lounge may take over Sky Harbor Steak House in West Peoria – Peoria Journal Star

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Iconic West Peoria site won’t sell marijuana

WEST PEORIA — A cannabis lounge is poised to take over the iconic but shuttered Sky Harbor Steak House.

On Tuesday night, the West Peoria City Council will consider multiple ordinance changes — including a special-use permit — that would allow the creation of the High Harbor Cannabis Event Center at 1321 N. Park Road. The business wouldn’t sell marijuana. 

Rather, the site would function as a club that would allow visitors to bring and smoke their own legal pot while listening to bands and otherwise socializing.

“I think it’s going to be an interesting concept,” Mayor Jim Dillon told the Journal Star.

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Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, he declined to divulge the identities of the investors, except to say they are involved with a marijuana dispensary in central Illinois. However, he said, the investors have met with the city extensively.

“They’ve got their act together,” Dillon said.

Cannabis lounges have been popping up in several states. By Illinois law, local communities can regulate such enterprises. Illinois has just one, the Luna Lounge, which opened last weekend in the village of Sesser near the southern tip of the state. A cannabis lounge has been proposed for Springfield as well.

Several months ago, West Peoria was approached by a group of investors looking for a site for a one-time cannabis-themed event, Dillon said. While surveying properties with sufficient space, they liked what they saw at Sky Harbor. Last year, the Klusendorf family, which had operated the restaurant at the site since 1996, said health woes were prompting them to shut operations and put the property up for sale. 

As talks progressed, the investors decided to seek a permanent presence at Sky Harbor, Dillon said. They are in the process of purchasing the property, said owner Daryl Klusendorf, who also declined to divulge their identities.

“These people are going to invest some significant money and do some renovations,” Klusendorf said.

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The goal is to open the lounge this year, Dillon said. At first, the business likely would focus on occasional events, but in time would offer regular hours, Dillon said.

The High Harbor will not allow visitors under 21, nor will alcohol be sold. Dillon believes operations would cease by 10 p.m.

Customers would pay a fee to enter, or they could buy memberships, Dillon said. Though High Harbor can’t function as a dispensary — the state vets each dispensary licenses, which the investors are not seeking for that site — it could sell smoking paraphernalia, such as pipes and papers, along with tobacco and tobacco products. Inside, guests would have access to multiple lounges for socializing, along with a bandstand for musical acts.

An outdoor area would allow for event vendors and food trucks. However, all marijuana consumption would be confined indoors, Dillon said.

For its part, West Peoria could make money from sales tax on tobacco and other items sold at High Harbor, Dillon said. He also said investors have indicated a future desire to perhaps seek licensing for a dispensary elsewhere in West Peoria. 

Moreover, Dillon said, the West Peoria business community would benefit from a return of activity at the address. 

“It’s taking a building that’s been closed since COVID and opening it back up again,” he said.

Dillon said he expects the council to vote favorably on the ordinance changes Tuesday. He has not heard any objections to the cannabis lounge.

“I’ve heard people say, ‘I’d much rather see something like that than another tavern,'” Dillon said.

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In addition to the High Harbor name, other aspects of the business would pay homage to the history of Sky Harbor, which the Klusendorfs formerly operated just outside the Peoria airport. For instance, one area would be called “The Skyway Lounge,” while another would be dubbed “The Cockpit.” The outdoor stretch – along the property’s wide parking lot – is to be known as “The Tarmac.”

As for live music, the new operation would be continuing a tradition long helmed by banjo-picker Klusendorf and sometimes accented by his washboard-strumming mother, Ellen Klusendorf. The bandstand is to be known as The Klusendorf Stage.

“They buyers seem to want to retain some of the character of the old place. We’re certainly in favor of that,” said Daryl Klusendorf. “We’ve had a presence in West Peoria for more than 25 years.”

Does he plan to visit The Klusendorf Stage?

“I’d certainly dust off the banjo,” he said with a chuckle. “And mom could bring her washboard.”

Phil Luciano is a Journal Star columnist. He can be reached at pluciano@pjstar.com and 309-686-3155. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Source: https://www.pjstar.com/story/business/2021/07/13/pot-lounge-may-come-west-peoria-sky-harbor-steak-house/7932978002/

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