Former Vegas club owner bringing cannabis museum to SoHo

Robert Frey nabs space for weed-themed venue to open this fall

427 Broadway and Robert Frey (Getty, THCNYC)
427 Broadway and Robert Frey (Getty, THCNYC)

Who needs a license to cash in on New York’s newly legal cannabis industry? Not former Las Vegas nightclub owner Robert Frey.

Frey is turning a historic SoHo building into a 30,000-square-foot immersive cannabis experience called The House of Cannabis, or THCNYC.

The space will include rotating art exhibitions extolling the cultural influence of the plant. Missing from Frey’s concept are plans to have any weed on the property.

Rather than focusing on getting New Yorkers high, Frey wants to give them something else: a cultural institution.

“We’re just excited because New Yorkers are true cannabis enthusiasts,” Frey said. “We thought it’d be a great place to launch our museum exhibit. We want it to be kind of the beacon for people to learn about cannabis.”

Frey, backed by cannabis venture capital firm Merida Holding, signed a 10-year lease plus a five-year option at 427 Broadway, a Chetrit Group property. “It’d be better if it was 420,” Frey joked.

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He is working on converting three floors of the building into an immersive gallery where visitors can learn about the history of cannabis and experience the art it inspires.

“We wanted to combine a lot of topics under one roof and put it in an environment where people can really explore, educate themselves and understand what cannabis is about, and the impact on New York,” Frey said.

Frey hopes the museum will be up and running sometime this fall.

Formerly the brains behind Pure nightclub and the Pussycat Dolls Lounge in Las Vegas, Frey is bringing his penchant for the multisensory to THCNYC.

Exhibits will involve LED light shows, sound technology, digital journeys and even smell to create an all-around 4-D experience, Frey said.

Artists on deck include cannabis photographer Chris Romaine, New York-based scent maker Victorine Deych and Mexican light designer Carlos Hano.

The name THCNYC might evoke a run-of-the-mill dispensary or smoke lounge, but it will be neither. Avoiding what’s sure to be a labyrinthine licensing process and regulatory landscape facing plant-selling businesses, Frey is keeping the House of Cannabis firmly weed-free.

While other cannabis industry entrepreneurs are duking it out for dispensary or on-site consumption licenses, Frey will be welcoming the already-stoned and the never-smoked to his museum.

“If you touch the plant, that limits what you’re doing,” Frey said. “We don’t want to be in competition. We want to really help all the dispensaries, whether they want to use us to launch brands or however they see that we can help their programs.”

Frey sees THCNYC as a gathering place for New York’s cannabis community.

The museum’s top floor will include an event space where Frey plans to hold lecture series and other programming to highlight cannabis programs throughout the city, with a special focus on social justice.

“We have so many citizens that don’t belong in jail [because of marijuana], we’d love to tell their story” through exhibits and by selling locally made art in the gift shop, Frey said.

This isn’t his first foray into the cannabis industry. Robert and his brother Michael, a cigar shop owner in Las Vegas, were part-owners of Naturex, a cannabis company that owned dispensaries throughout Nevada.

The brothers sued Naturex co-owner and marijuana industry giant Verano in 2019. The Freys eventually received $125 million and 11 dispensary licenses, the Nevada Independent reported.

Robert Frey says he is no longer involved in the Nevada cannabis industry. THCNYC is his first major New York-based venture.

“I love New York. It certainly has something for everybody. It’s vibrant,” Frey said. “I like SoHo, I like the energy, and I think it’s fun for us to be part of that.”