The San Fernando Valley of California retains its edgy nostalgia with mellow pockets of dive bars and music studios – but a new kind of place, perfect for North Hollywood, has emerged as a means to escape the outside world and smoke cannabis freely while enjoying house amenities. It’s the spot where everybody knows your name, where you can have an afternoon smoking fatties or reading blogs as you puff on your vape in peace. In an area people have smoked cannabis in their cars for decades, this stoner Amsterdam-style cafe is a Zen hideaway to its members.
“Travelers just come in, they get everything they need, all in one place, and it’s just like an escape, a new Zen.”Nicole, a Wake and Bake Café customer
Young, entrepreneurial owner Brian Williams charges $10 for a day-use membership at the cute red Wake and Bake cottage, which comes with free Wi-Fi, cable TV, a pour over cup of coffee from the likes of esteemed Chicago craft roaster Intelligentsia, and a comfortable place to consume. “We needed something different than what was being displayed,” Williams said. “If you look at 99.999% of the other dispensaries, that’s not the cannabis culture. The stores look like places like you shouldn’t be, like really sketchy looking, really underground, and [they] don’t look [presentable] to the American people. We wanted to create something that best represents our culture.”
Wake and Bake doesn’t deal cannabis in weight. Their counter only offers party-size and pre-rolled joints in a limited number of flavors; some edibles; rolling papers; and small cans of Top Shelf by The Highest Cure. They carry pre-rolled Wake and Bake OG, their brand and strain, plus Blue Cookies, which Brian refers to as the “cappuccino of our bud.” Tobacco products are generally nil. Organic juices are available. Long tables and chairs fill out the members-only front room lounge, which connects to a cozy hallway seating area with chalkboard walls and TVs and leads to an outdoor patio seating area outfitted with a green artificial grass rug.
The eighteen-and-over café (California’s medical system allows patients to be 18+) serves a wide range of stoners. According to Williams, “The oldest member I’ve had in here is about 48, and [customers range] from skateboarder to professor, from doctor to magician, from architect to contractor, and maybe a couple law enforcement officers.”
Opened in fall 2016, Wake and Bake has 140 yearly members who have either the Gold Card for $50/month and $420/year, or the Black Card for $100/month and $650/year. Privileged amenities include guest passes, free pre-rolls, unlimited coffee and tea, discounts on merchandise, and tickets to house special events. A donation to the local North Hollywood YMCA is included, and Brian hopes to do more locally and integrate the business and its partnerships within the neighborhood. Black Card membership even offers Snapchat Takeover access. The café has also sold over 400 day use passes, which are well worth it if you drink coffee seriously or are far from home and need a place to puff.
It’s a higher standard than a dispensary experience, with no security guard and your own space, and because Wake and Bake is not competing with other collectives they absolutely encourage you to bring your own cannabis in and enjoy it. The intention is to build a community, and give travelers who need a break a place to participate in LA’s unique cannabis culture. Williams says some visitors came in recently from Marina Del Rey, and of course, they didn’t want a monthly pass, but it was cool for them to stop in, get a day pass, sip coffee, and puff to check it out. Nightly events like an open mic, live painting, and happy hour are on the calendar throughout each month. No pressure and no bad vibes accompany them, and who doesn’t like a spot to just be comfortable in and smoke some good bud?
Outside on the patio when I visited, an individual named Rock and his two friends were streaming a video on a laptop. “We actually stopped by for the day,” he said. “We wanted somewhere to hang out, enjoy some coffee, some cannabis, and catch up on some live entertainment, and this is kind of a chill place to do it.” After the incessant rain in southern California lately, it was a lovely 75-degree day and the sun was finally out. Rock and his friends smoked blunts and relished having their own hangout to get high away from home.
Another patron named Nicole was at a table up in the front working on her laptop. She writes and has a monthly membership so she can smoke and have a quiet place to work. Originally from England, she recanted how places like this are widespread in Europe but hardly exist in the states. She loves the vibe, she says. “It feels so homey. It’s special, like in England, how the pubs are based off welcoming and travel. Like, come in for the night. They make you feel like home, it’s like the public house. Travelers just come in, they get everything they need, all in one place, and it’s just like an escape, a new Zen.”
Wake and Bake certainly serves that purpose, and perhaps in the future, Williams and other like-minded business owners could spread that café culture across the country.