Neon Tiger, a vegan cocktail bar set in the year 2048, is coming to King Street this spring

Former Rarebit owner shifting into animal-free venture


The flickering outline of a roaring tiger stares out from a black screen. The neon orange and pink pulsates, like a power line is fighting to fuel the light. "It's a glitch in the Matrix," says John Adamson of his new vegan cocktail concept Neon Tiger. "It doesn't adhere to the rules of the Matrix."

Adamson explains that his new restaurant will be set in the year 2048 when it opens at 654 King St. (formerly Juliet) in early spring. Less whimsy and more end times, this is the world Adamson believes we will have to grapple with if humans continue to kill, consume, and imprison animals.

The restaurant will be entirely plant-based, with locally sourced booze, no cans or bottles, and as little waste as possible. Prolific Toronoto-based activist and vegan chef Doug McNish serves as Neon Tiger's consultant.

"We have pretty grand plans," says Adamson. Neon Tiger will be a B Corp, an entity that functions as a business while also meeting standards for social responsibility and sustainability. "It's all about education, for me as an activist, you have to play to your strengths and my strength is creating and designing restaurant concepts."

Adamson has a been a vegan for two-and-a-half years. The day he decided to change his way of life, Adamson says he was ready to turn his restaurant, The Rarebit, into a vegan-only eatery. "There would be no greater statement for the movement," he says. But it wasn't practical, so the restaurateur decided to sell his popular King Street joint and put money toward a new venture. Serendipitously, Neon Tiger's landlord is also a vegan.

"Designing those spaces [Rarebit and The Americano] from my head, it's just what I enjoy. This one happens to be more important than any I've ever done."

Adamson is ready for keyboard warriors to attack his animal-free restaurant — the outspoken activist is used to getting flack from meat eaters. "The funny thing, well it's not funny, but the interesting thing about veganism is you have so many people who want to fight you on it, but you are fighting for them. Animal liberation is human liberation."

He says his goal since becoming vegan was to "create a space for people to have a cruelty free meal." The response from fellow vegans in the hospitality industry has been great, says Adamson. Turns out there are plenty of front and back of house workers who desire an animal-free work place, but haven't been able to pursue this goal and still keep a roof over their heads.

If you don't buy into the whole "veganism will save the world" thing, that's OK says Adamson. "You only need about 10 or 15 percent of the population — think about any movement in history. We're just racing for that 10 percent."

According to a Forbes analysis in 2018 based on a Science mag report, "Since livestock production is the single largest contributor of emissions around the globe (more than planes, trains and cars combined), removing it from out food system could allow the planet to regenerate. Raising animals for food is also the largest contributor to wildlife extinction around the world."

Whether you're a vegan, on the fence, or an adamant consumer of animal products, Adamson hopes you'll check out Neon Tiger. It will be open nightly until 2 a.m. with a "sexy, lounge-y feel" that also happens to be mid apocalypse themed.

"The idea is in 2048 the only tiger you’ll have will be representations of these animals. It also brings that human element it's like a slight to humanity — of course we'd only be left with neon ... It's a responsibility we had that we completely neglected and failed."

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