“As far as I’m concerned, the war’s over.”
These are the words of a Liverpool man who claims he’s been given the green light by authorities to reopen his cannabis coffeeshop, The Chillin’ Rooms.
Gary Youds, who has illegally operated the Chillin’ Rooms for over 17 years on and off, announced his big news on a recent podcast with CannamanTV.
In the recording, Youds claims to have received backing from politicians on both sides of the political spectrum to operate the cannabis club from its location in Kensington, Liverpool.
Youds also says that The Chillin’ rooms should have official approval within two months and that he has penned an opening for mid-October. Liverpool band The Zutons are rumoured to be playing on the opening night.
The ‘Scouse model’
Describing his operation as “structured and professional”, Youds says that over the last 20 years he has refined the model and it’s now “ready to roll” after receiving recognition by those in authority.
“It’s not the Dutch model or the Spanish model, it’s the Scouse model…” Gary says in the interview.
The cannabis sold at the Chillin’ Rooms will all be locally produced, organic, tested and sold in a safe environment. There will even be an app that tracks the cannabis from seed to sale, ensuring high quality standards are maintained and every bit of weed is accounted for.
The app will also allow customers to book a seat at the venue, check what’s on the menu, and even find out who’s growing the weed.
“The growers are hopefully going to be as famous as the celebrity chefs,” Gary exclaimed.
Gary believes that now is the perfect time for such a grassroots movement as the country faces the fallout from the Coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown. He sees such projects as a major step in rebuilding and enriching local communities.
Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, he says: “There’s an opportunity right now, because I know there’s thousands of people in the country who need jobs. Lots of these businesses [closed due to coronavirus] won’t be able to open again.
“They won’t be able to find the finance. I just believe now if we can look at the model we can roll it out and we can get everybody back to work, get cannabis off the streets and pay the taxes.”
Mr Youds also states his desire to see another 100,000 cannabis coffeeshops open throughout the country, as well as all cannabis prisoners released from prison.
Brushes with law
Gary recently avoided going to jail after 202 cannabis plants were found in his wardrobe in March 2019. Supporters cheered as the 50-year-old dad-of-two was spared jail and handed a community order at his sentencing at Liverpool Crown Court in February.
Before that, in January 2017, he was sentenced to nine months in jail after being caught (for the third time) running the illegal business on Holt Road, Kensington, Liverpool.
Gary first applied to Liverpool Council to convert the former taxi office into a private members’ club for cannabis smokers in 2002.
When his plans were rejected by councillors, the former pub landlord decided to go ahead and set it up anyway. In 2005, he was given a conditional discharge for allowing cannabis to be smoked at the venue.
Speaking at the time of one of his most recent court appearances, Youds said: “It was the ultimate chilling room. It was free from crime, it was unique and there was nowhere like it, it was like one in a million.
“It was the light at the end of the tunnel and thousands of people came and went there. I’m proud of what I created, I really am. It was a private place, you had to be invited by a friend, we didn’t have any signs-up, we didn’t have any marketing, it was strictly word-of-mouth.
“I wanted to pay tax. I wanted to do everything right. I went to see everybody, the Mayor, I tried with every angle of authority,” said Youds.
He added: “We had the best underground music night and we had people coming from all over the world there, the local money was generated by the community for the community.
“It was a little pot of creativity, it couldn’t have gone better.
“We didn’t have any crime whatsoever, I never witnessed it in 17 years, not even a cigarette thrown on the floor.
“Every single night there were about 200, 300 people in there and everyone went home safe. We never had one single complaint, in the whole time.”
No change in law
During one of Youds’ hearings, Recorder Louise Brandon told him: “Regardless of what you think of the law, these are criminal offences.”
And while he may have the backing from certain higher ups for the reopening of The Chillin’ Rooms, it doesn’t get around the fact that there has been no amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act and cannabis is still a class B drug.
On a phone call with Gary, he assures me that although he has not had direct contact with Merseyside Police, representatives of his have and he does not expect any bother from them once reopened.
If he’s correct, the Chillin Rooms and Gary’s ‘Scouse model’ of cannabis coffeeshops could set a precedent for more venues in other towns and cities around the country. Gary could have just kick-started the green avalanche, as he likes to call it.
Let’s hope he’s right.