When an outburst of coughs broke the already-thick air during comedian Mike Rita’s set at Yonge Street’s Vapor Central last Sunday, only some of them could be attributed to boredom. “Being a stoner in Toronto is like nothing else,” cracked Rita from the stage, partially obscured in a haze of pot smoke. “We’re all smoking weed in a giant apartment and nobody gives a fuck.”
More than 200 people—mostly young men in baseball caps—congregated in the second-floor space above Noah’s Vitamins for the lounge’s weekly comedy revue, Stoner Sundays. The crowd appeared mellow depsite the recent bad news: Well-known Kensington Market weed refuge, the Hot Box Café, will be closing this fall to make way for a coffee shop*. In conversation with the Star last week, owner Abi Roach called the sale “a loss to the neighbourhood.” But, as if heeding Rita’s comments, few people seemed visibly distraught by the news.
A pseudo-competitor in the Toronto cannibus circuit, Vapor’s co-manager Erin Goodwin also expressed disappointment, if not surprise, as she milled around patrons taking hits from comically-large water bongs. She knows plenty of weed aficionados who found Hot Box a bit too downscale. “It’s part of Kensington’s flair, but it’s not for everyone,” she said, suggesting that the (unrelated) Vapor Social on nearby College Street might catch some of the Hot Box spillover. Or, “they might just go to a park around the corner.”
Sixty-five-year old Naomi Poley-Fisher, a home-care nurse who frequents Vapor so often she referred to it as her “Cheers,” sat near the back with a pile of potato chips. “Kids don’t go to lounges to just sit and smoke,” she said. “They go to have fun and communicate, and meet people like me.” A former bi-weekly customer at Hot Box, she seemed, if anything, eager to see what takes its place.
“I’ll drink their coffee,” she said. “And if it’s good coffee, I’ll be back.”
UPDATE: After this article went to press, The Grid became aware of Hot Box Café’s relocation to Roach-o-rama (191 Baldwin St., 416-203-6990). We were unable to confirm this before press time, as calls to Hot Box were unreturned. Hot Box Café will re-open in the new location as a lounge beginning Sept. 15.