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OG Cannabis Cafe, L.A.'s first pub for pot people, blazes back after a 4-year hiatus

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OG Cannabis Cafe, L.A.'s first pub for pot people, blazes back after a 4-year hiatus

At first glance, the scene unfolding on a leafy, half-crowded patio in West Hollywood looks like any other gastropub on a Sunday afternoon. In one corner, a table of nine celebrates a milestone birthday around a vase filled with 21 delicate pink roses. In another, a table of five carries on three conversations at once while two propped up smartphones stream football games.

The occupants of a table for two in the middle of the patio whisper sweet nothings to each other and smile widely. Nearby, a party of one in a turquoise blue, flare-legged pantsuit contemplates how to tuck into a generous plate of waffles stacked with fried chicken and drizzled with syrup.

It’s with the second glance — or more likely the first deep inhale — that it all snaps into focus: when you realize that not far from the vase of roses, the birthday honoree is preparing to fire up a Stündenglass gravity bong, the football fans are passing around a dab rig shaped like Baby Yoda and the woman in the flare-legged pantsuit has a fork in one hand and a lighted joint in the other.

And they’re all busy consuming weed at OG Cannabis Cafe, the first place in the state where one could legally get high and chow down when it opened on Oct. 1, 2019, only to shutter 5½ months later because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rumors of its re-opening had come and gone ever since, including a much-hyped re-brand by the owners of High Times magazine. Still, the doors remained closed.

Now, after nearly four years, OG Cannabis Cafe is back open for business.

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However, the local consumption-lounge scene has changed dramatically in that time with the opening of three other places to publicly (and legally) puff pot open within 2½ miles of the cafe’s North La Brea Avenue location: the Artist Tree Studio Dispensary Lounge, the Woods and PleasureMed, which includes the restaurant-with-a-side-of-reefer Irie. (They’re all in West Hollywood, the only city in Greater Los Angeles that has legally licensed consumption lounges up and running.)

After recent visits, it was apparent that OG Cannabis Cafe has remained very much the way it was when it opened (and closed) its doors.

“To be honest, we haven’t changed anything — it’s exactly the same except for the cannabis menu and some small changes to the menu,” the original cafe’s co-founder, Sean Black, said about reopening in an environment where he’s no longer the only game in town. “I love the idea of there being different kinds of cannabis experiences. I haven’t yet been to Irie for the high-end dining experience but I’m excited to try it. And I love the Woods. I had such a good time there.”

When asked if he and his partners feel any pressure in the new environment, Black waved it off. “We believe that we have created here a cannabis tourist destination … and we feel an obligation to ensure that people who come from other areas of the world, who are cannabis enthusiasts, have their first public opportunity to consume cannabis and have a meal in [what we believe is] the very first place in the world that you could do that.”

Rosie Aguirre brought her own Grogu dab rig and cannabis concentrate to smoke.

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A woman sits at a table with three other people. She holds a hose next to her mouth with smoke coming out.

Nayeli Hernandez, right, takes a bong rip on her 21st birthday.

Two women sit at a table on a leafy outdoor patio, one of them with a tray and the other taking a photo with her phone.

Jackie Palatnikov, left, photographs friend Gal, while the two dine at the newly reopened OG Cannabis Cafe.

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What hasn’t changed

The space is still configured so cannabis can legally be consumed inside the cafe (which seats 40) as well as on the patio (which has an 80-person capacity), while beer and wine (but not weed) can be ordered on another patio. A hearty bar-food menu — think Buffalo chicken wings, nachos, smashburgers, truffle Parmesan fries and the like — is available throughout.

Behind the pub-grub menu is a new chef, Jonah Johnson of Jonah’s Kitchen in Santa Monica, who replaced Andrea Drummer, who was at the helm the first time around.

Due to federal banking laws, any cannabis purchased on site needs to be paid for in cash (there is an ATM available), though credit cards are accepted for food and drink purchases. In one small but noticeable departure from the before times, the same server takes orders for both comestibles and combustibles instead of having separate servers for food and flower.

A man smoking a blunt with smoke around his head.

Frederick Marshall says he’s been stopping by the cafe “about five times a week” since it reopened.

What has changed

Speaking of weed (that’s why you’re here, right?), the herbal offerings are probably the biggest switch-up for this incarnation of the cafe.

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The cannabis menu features just three brands, two of which have yet to launch into dispensaries. On offer are infused pre-rolled joints and ground flower from flavor-forward, colorfully packaged Dizzies ($25 to $60, the only brand available elsewhere); pre-rolls and flower from indoor-grown Wav ($45 to $100); and greenhouse-grown (and incredibly fragrant) Helena Farms, available in loose flower or pre-roll form (ranging from $20 for 3.5 grams of flower up to $120 for a 1-ounce pack of 70 joints — a crowd-pleasing party-starter if ever there was one).

An ashtray with stubbed out joints next to a decorative box of pre-rolled joints.

Among the offerings on the cannabis menu is a 1-ounce box of 70 pre-rolled joints from soon-to-launch, L.A.-based brand Helena Farms.

All three of the brands are owned by L.A.-based Elevate Holdings, for which Black happens to be a partner and serves as the chief creative officer. (He’s also one of 11 partners involved in OG Cannabis Cafe 2.0.) “They lent us the money to reopen the cafe,” Black said of Elevate Holdings, noting that exclusively featuring one company’s herbal offerings leans into the original purpose of his restaurant-meets-weed concept.

“I founded Lowell Herb Co. in 2011,” he said, “and we first opened this as the Lowell Cafe.” Black said the original vision was to feature Lowell’s products on the smokable side of the menu as a marketing play. That all changed when he and Lowell parted ways just months after the doors opened in 2019.

“So [now,] it’s actually fulfilling its original purpose — promoting cannabis,” Black said, “in addition to being a fun little outdoor cafe where you can get high instead of getting drunk. That’s the whole premise. It’s pretty simple.”

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People sitting in a restaurant-like space with brick walls and cannabis-brand art.

The indoor area at the cafe also serves food and cannabis and seats about 40 people.

A pub for pot people

Black isn’t the only one making the alternative-to-alcohol, pub-for-pot-people comparison either. A Sunday visit in mid-January found Montana Alexander, 25, ready to smoke up with a table full of friends. She had made the trek from Santa Clarita after discovering the cafe on Instagram. “This place is literally a dream,” Alexander said between puffs, “because I don’t drink, so when my friends go to bars I’m like, ‘So lame.’”

Alexander’s sentiment was echoed by Nayeli Hernandez of Porter Ranch, the aforementioned birthday girl. “I don’t really drink,” she told The Times. “So from the time I turned 20, I was thinking about doing this,” she said. Hernandez’s mother, sitting next to her at the head of the table, chimed in.

“I was down for it,” said Christina Hernandez of her daughter’s request. “This is what they do now.”

A closeup of a hand lighting a joint  next to a smartphone propped on a table streaming a football game

Miguel Aguirre fires up a Wav Purple Zushi pre-rolled joint while watching a football game.

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A circular neon sign with the words Cannabis Cafe and @OGCannabiscafe  on it against a leafy green wall

A neon sign bearing the logo of the OG Cannabis Cafe lights up a back wall.

Two people stand with their lips very close together, one blowing smoke into the other's mouth.

Act Up India, left, and DJ Tricey Trice “shotgun” a hit on the leafy green outdoor patio.

Coming soon: comedy night, queer night and marijuana meditation

Although the cafe quietly re-opened to patrons in late October, things are set to kick into high gear this month, starting with a big watch party for the big football game on Feb. 11 (smoke a bowl for the … well, you get the picture) hosted by former mixed martial arts fighter Nick Diaz.

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“The week of the Super Bowl is going to be packed,” Dejanae Evins, the cafe’s experiential marketing and events manager, told The Times. “On the 13th, we’ll be starting our [every-other-Tuesday] queer wine night called Verse, which will be co-hosted by Ashlee Belzo[of cannabis collective] Puff Dao on our wine patio, where people can enjoy a glass of wine, small bites and a DJ. And then, if they want to end their night with a joint and a sundae on the other side, they can do that.”

In addition, Evins said there will be weekly comedy nights from 7:30 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays (next week, it’s bumped to Thursday because of Valentine’s Day). Also beginning Feb. 13, there will be morning meditations (think sound baths and guided meditation) on the second and fourth Tuesday mornings of each month. “People will be able to come in,” Evins said, “really start their day on a high note and then move into doing something productive, whether that’s co-working or meeting friends for lunch. It’s our way of staying connected to the wellness community.

“We also have some really big plans for 420,” Evins said of the annual April 20 celebration of all things cannabis that’s less than three months away. “So definitely stay tuned for that.”

Cannabis Cafe

1201 N. La Brea Ave.
West Hollywood
Noon to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
cannabis.cafe

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Know before you go

  • You must be 21 or older to enter the cannabis-consuming side of the cafe, and a valid, government-issued ID is required.
  • Unlike the other local consumption lounges, you can bring your own cannabis (or cannabis extracts) to smoke here — for a “tokage” fee, which is currently $25 for table of three or fewer and $50 for tables of four or more.
  • Also unlike other local consumption lounges, the cafe doesn’t operate alongside a traditional dispensary, which means you can’t just pop in, buy a bag and bounce. But you can consume a little and then cut out, Black says.
  • Rolling papers, grinders, lighters and rolling trays are provided, and you may also bring your own pipe or glass. Bongs and pipes may be purchased on-site, and Stündenglass gravity bongs can be rented for $50.
  • On-site valet parking is available for $10 (for your designated driver). Remember: When you’re high, you shouldn’t operate anything larger than a soup spoon much less a vehicle of any kind.
  • Walk-ins are accepted on a space-available basis, but reservations are encouraged and may be made via OpenTable.
  • Although the establishment serves cannabis and food, it does not serve cannabis-infused food.

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Cuban cabaret artist Juana Bacallao dies at 98

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Cuban singer-entertainer Juana Bacallao performs at the “One-Eyed Cat” cafe in Havana in 2010.

Javier Galeano/AP


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Javier Galeano/AP


Cuban singer-entertainer Juana Bacallao performs at the “One-Eyed Cat” cafe in Havana in 2010.

Javier Galeano/AP

Cuban cabaret sensation Juana Bacallao died Saturday in her hometown of Havana, according to a statement on social media from Cuba’s Ministry of Culture. She was 98 years old.

The famed, globe-trotting vocalist performed alongside artists such as Nat King Cole and Benny Moré. Her name became synonymous with the glamorous Cuban nightclub scene of the 1940s and 1950s.

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But her career spanned almost her entire lifetime.

“She marked a milestone in the history of Cuban cabaret, from the 50s of the last century until just a few years ago,” said the Ministry of Culture’s statement.

Known for her husky voice, gaudy sequined dresses, blonde wigs and risqué performances, Bacallao thrilled audiences at Tropicana and other legendary Havana nightspots. According to a 2010 Denver Post article about one of Bacallao’s performances, she asked the crowd, ‘”Do we have any virgins here?’ before suggesting that some of the male patrons ought to pay extra for staring at her so hard.”

Bacallao was the artist’s main stage name. She was also known as Juana La Cubana. Her real name was Amelia Martínez Salazar, according to the Ministry of Culture.

Born in a working-class neighborhood in Havana in 1925, Bacallao was orphaned at 6 and attended Catholic school, before she was said to have been discovered as a teenager while cleaning houses by bandleader Obdulio Morales.

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“Owner of a very special sense of Cuban and Creole humor, she took her art and wit to countries such as the United States, France, Mexico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic and Spain,” said the statement on Facebook. “Her physical departure represents a sensitive loss for the Cuban music scene.”

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