Toronto: Thompson Hotel Redesign Signals the End of an Era

Thompson hotel — Publicity — H 2019
Courtesy of Thompson Hotel

A favorite of TIFF insiders thanks to a particularly notorious rooftop lounge, the late-night destination is shutting down as part of a hotel face-lift after this year's fest.

It’s time to say goodbye to the Thompson hotel — kind of.

This fall, the Thompson will begin a yearlong face-lift that will see it transformed into a 1 Hotels property. The bones will remain the same, but the vibe that fueled nine years of TIFF happenings will fade into history. Located at 550 Wellington Street West — a six-minute drive from the Bell Lightbox — the luxury hotel and residence opened in 2010, the same year the festival moved into the Lightbox, and helped usher in TIFF’s post-Yorkville social scene. The Thompson’s rooftop lounge and its street-level diner helped define the hotel’s allure to industry insiders.

"There was no way to get up there unless you were allowed onto the elevator by the people who decide these things," recalls event photographer Ryan Emberley of the rooftop. "People felt free to carry on as they pleased. There was a hint of debauchery and other fun things. It was part of the film festival after dark."

Former BravoFACT executive director Judy Gladstone was particularly fond of the more accessible Thompson Diner. Initially open 24/7, the eatery switched to its current 6 a.m. - 3 a.m. schedule in 2016. "It evolved into a great place to have a meeting over a drink and meal," she says. Thompson mixologist Jeff Puddy has concocted a suite of movie-themed cocktails for the hotel’s last TIFF.

Inspired by Todd Phillips' Joker, the Happy Face martini updates the classic drink with a splash of absinthe. The bourbon-based Perfect Lap celebrates James Mangold’s Ford v Ferrari, complete with a Hot Wheels GT-40 replica. And for those looking to steer clear of the hard stuff, the Ruby Slipper commemorates the Renée Zellweger-starring biopic Judy with a non-alcoholic concoction that re-creates the taste and texture of real gin. 

This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's Sept. 6 daily issue at the Toronto Film Festival.