By Colleen Isherwood
DESERT HOT SPRINGS, Calif. — Roger Bloss, an entrepreneur who grew Vantage Hospitality from zero to 1,000 hotels in 15 years, has announced his cannabis wellness hotel brand, Coachill, with the first one opening in California next year.
When Bloss launched Vantage Hospitality and the Americas Best Value Inn brand in 1999, it was the first hotel brand to place greater control back into the hands of its owners. With a voice and a vote in the direction of the brand, owners even voted on how much they would pay in marketing and franchise fees.
Today, Bloss is CEO & president of Alternative Hospitality, Inc., a division of Las Vegas-based MJ Holdings., which is a diversified publicly traded holding company providing complete seed-to-sale services to the regulated cannabis industry.
Bloss continues to disrupt the industry, but this time he has his sights set on greener pastures; specifically, the cannabis kind, as he becomes the first hotelier to launch a portfolio of health and wellness cannabis-based hotels featuring a dispensary, wellness goods, and services to educate guests about the health-enhancing aspects of cannabis. Bloss will also be working with his longtime partner in Vantage Hospitality, Bernie Moyle, who will be COO.
Bloss has a personal reason for promoting cannabis as a wellness option. About a decade ago, he survived two near-death experiences within a few months of each other. First, he nearly died due to a severe “widow maker” heart attack; and then his car drove off a cliff in California, leaving him with a severely injured back and badly bruised ribs and shoulder.
He initially took narcotics to deal with the pain, but didn't want to become addicted to opioids. He tried medical marijuana, which was legal in California, and after a great deal of trial and error, found the right balance to ease his symptoms, but not impair his mental function.
“Now I use a topical cream and that makes it easy to travel with and it works for me without all of the side effects of opioids,” Bloss told Weedmaps.com. He attributes his recovery to the healing powers of cannabis and a lifestyle change.
With California’s Coachella Valley, home of the Coachella Music Festival, as a launch point, Bloss and Moyle will use their Alternative Hospitality platform to start 420 Stay, an ownership, development and management company. Two hotel brands are being eventually envisioned for the company: Coachill Inn and 420 Stay.
“Everybody knows Coachella, so this gives us instant recognition,” Bloss said. “This tells you exactly where we are and what we do.”
The first project will be part of a master-planned industrial cultivation and ancillary canna-business park called Coachillin’. The first Coachill Inn will be located within the park — which handles everything from germination of seeds to the sale of the product. The park contains research and development sectors, a touring and education dispensary, a manufacturing and fulfillment centre, and a variety of greenhouse setups.
“The concept primarily is to create an environment that is obviously very legal, very much part of a community,” said Bloss, who remains as a consultant for RLH Corporation, which acquired Vantage in 2016. “We’re not in the cannabis business; we’re in the health and wellness business.
“The market has an unbelievable demographic and psychographic, from young hippy kids, to people like me and you.” [Read: less young.] “The fastest-growing demographic is boomers.
“People want to come to a place where they can experiment, explore and get educated around people who are like-minded. They want to know, 'what's best for me in terms of health and wellness?' “
Bloss also noted that American hamburger chain Carls Jr. is selling CBD edibles. “How mainstream is this?” he asked.
But no one has looked at cannabis from a tourism access point of view — providing great hotel facilities and experiential travel.
Bloss has structured a deal where the landowner — someone with a local following in the community — puts their land into the deal. MJ Holdings puts up 51 per cent of the obligation, and the owner another 5 to 10 per cent in land value. That means Bloss only has to raise or finance the rest of the 40 per cent. “People want to be in this industry, and a lot of people invest directly into the hotel.”
The first hotel
Alternative Hospitality’s first hotel, the one in the Coachella Valley in the Coachillin' Canna_Business Park, will break ground later this year. The 150-room Coachill Inn Resort should be open in March 2020.
“Desert Hot Springs is known for its healing power,” Bloss said. Because MJ Holdings is a grower, this approach well-rounded and seed to sale. “It's so state-of-the-art, so green in so many aspects.”
It's also convenient, with the I15 I10 and I40 highways connecting the area. The area is known for the Coachella Music Festival. Palm Springs is just seven miles away, providing golf, casinos and entertainment.
The hotel also has its own amphitheatre for up to 1,000 people, and conference space accommodating meetings of 200-250 people.
“But,” Bloss stresses, this is not a smoke house. It is a great hotel that's all about health, wellness and awareness of our bodies. It's super fun — we're going to have goat yoga. There will be a gym that is not just your ordinary hotel gym, with Equinox or Lifetime equipment. We will have full workout facilities, CBD oil massages, yoga rooms and yoga instruction.
“There will be no smoking in the hotels; smokers can use their porches or smoke in designated areas. There will also be a fire pit, a winding lazy river, entertainment and visuals. It will be comfy and welcoming — guests can sit by the pool in a little area.
“We will ask the guests questions, like, 'what brings you here — is it health, wellness, education or curiosity? Is there something in your body or temperament that you would like to address?' There will be a pharmacist to welcome them.
“There will be no front desk, as people understand what you're there for. There will be CBD products, melatonin tinctures, etc. They will ask how the treatment works, and guests and you will be able to buy the product and take it home. If the treatment didn't work, then you might want to try something else. There is someone you can talk to. And we're going to make sure the products have great quality control.”
The hotel will feature all things hemp, including furniture, clothing, uniforms, bedding and linens.
“But first and foremost, it's a great hotel.” Not pricey either — at a price of $99 USD per room, everything included.
Bloss has plans for eight hotels in the works. In addition to the Coachill Inn, he plans another one closer to downtown Palm Springs, which will break ground while the first hotel is under construction. Next will be the first of three in Las Vegas, right behind Wynn's new Resort World. They have a site lined up in Detroit, and other deals in process. The hotel construction will be staggered, with each new one starting three to six months after the previous one.
He isn't limiting the search for appropriate locations to new builds. “As long as a hotel has balconies, I'm interested,” said Bloss. “This includes one and two-storey hotels with exterior corridors, like the 1960s motor court with a pool. There should be outdoor space and community activities. For example, the Detroit location has a racetrack next to it, with all kinds of events, concerts, etc.”
No plans for cannabis-friendly Canada, though…