Thank You For Toking: Smokey River Entertainment District offers a permanent venue for cannabis-friendly events

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Illuystration by Cassondra Jones

Now that recreational cannabis is legal in Missouri, there is a need for social gathering places for smokers and substance-free friends alike. It’s important that safe spaces be available where people have the option to partake in a toke or choose not to while they mingle with their stoned friends. Thankfully, Besa Hospitality Group will meet this need with its new cannabis-friendly entertainment venue.

The Smokey River Entertainment District is set to open its doors to the public April 20. Development is underway on the new space that winds along the Missouri River. The venue is located off 291 Highway in River Bend, MO, east of downtown Kansas City, and will showcase music, artwork, cuisine, and more at its events.

The Smokey River Entertainment District will feature an outdoor amphitheater, two indoor clubs, music halls for dining and drinking, and designated cannabis consumption lounges.

Besa Hospitality Group’s mission, according to President Joey Pintozzi, is “normalizing cannabis through hospitality.” 

“Cannabis will be part of the experience,” Pintozzi says.

An artistic rendering shows people walking along the outdoor ampitheater and vendor village at the planned Smokey River Entertainment District.

An artistic rendering of the planned Smokey River Entertainment District. // Courtesy of BesaMe Wellness/Joey Pintozzi

When Besa Hospitality Group founder and CEO Jack Mitchell saw the available space in River Bend, he had the idea to expand BHG with the Smokey River Entertainment District. The space struck him as an opportunity not only to provide a much-needed new venue for entertainment and arts in Kansas City but also to further BHG’s mission of normalizing cannabis now that recreational cannabis has been legalized in Missouri.

“Just like alcohol and tobacco, you’re going to have designated areas where you can legally consume and be yourself, where you can have that normalization,” Pintozzi says of the new venue space. “It’s not just an entertainment district that has legal cannabis. If you don’t want to be around it, you don’t have to be around it. There will be entertainment for all to enjoy”.

The Smokey River Entertainment District is kicking off with the Smokey River 420 Festival on—you guessed it—April 20. This will be the first festival in the state of Missouri that pays homage to legal cannabis, according to Pintozzi. Grammy-nominated rapper Wiz Khalifa will headline the inaugural festival, with support from Joey Bada$$, Berner, Smoke DZA, and Chevy Woods.

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420 Fest lineup . // Courtesy Besa Hospitality Group

“Wiz, Berner, and Smoke DZA are all very well known in the cannabis space already, with all of them having their own world-renowned cannabis entities: Khalifa Kush (Wiz), Cookies (Berner), and Smokers Club (DZA),” says Pintozzi.

Along with a day’s worth of musical performances, the event will include a “Cannabis Village” featuring cannabis vendors from across the state. Attendees will also be able to participate in cannabis-themed activities and partake in cannabis consumption inside designated lounge areas. Food and beverage vendors will also be on-site.

Other events in the works include a Fourth of July festival honoring veterans and an end-of-summer festival, with the date to be determined.

By 2024, the Smokey River Entertainment District plans to implement an indoor music hall as well, along with frequent Riverwalk events with accommodations such as a skate park, a playground, and, potentially, an Esports lounge.

“[The Smokey River Entertainment District] is progress, not just for us, but for the country as well. We want it to be responsible and safe as we celebrate the end of prohibition,” says Pintozzi.  

Categories: Culture