Best Vancouver Bars and Clubs: A History

Oil Can Harry’s

From 1966 to 1977, Danny Baceda and Frank Hook’s three-room club on Thurlow Street was home to R&B, lounge music and jazz. Its cartoon-villain branding and playboy ethos made it the place to be, until it collapsed under the


Sure, it was just a restaurant with belly dancers, but partner Blaine Culling, on his way from the 1960s Retinal Circus to the 1990s Roxy, helped to create a scene in the 1970s and 80s where forbidden things happened.

The Globe Saloon

Former steamship operator John Gassy Jack Deighton ran a bar in New Westminster until 1867, when he came to Burrard Inlet and established the future Vancouver’s first bar, the Globe Saloon, by Edward Stamp’s sawmill. For hi

The Cave

Along with the Palomar and the Hotel Vancouver’s Panorama Roof, the Cave and its tacky stalactites defined Vancouver’s supper club era in the 1950s and 60s, hosting acts from Duke Ellington to Diana Ross and the Supremes, and providin

The Penthouse

Bottle club, late-night refuge, hooker hangout, stripper joint, film set. The Penthouse, which has featured the likes of Sammy Davis, Jr. on its stage, has rolled with all the changes, including the 1984 murder of patriarch Joe (above),

The Commodore

On the verge of the 1970s, Drew Burns obtained the 40-year-old, 1,000-seat ballroom’s first regular liquor licence and built its reputation as one of the world’s great nightclubs. Although Burns maintains he spent the right 27

The Pink Pussycat

In the 1960s, Danny Baceda, Harvey Eisen and then Roger Gibson ran the city’s first disco, where Water Street meets Cordova. Before Luv-A-Fair, before Graceland, before Republic, this was where the city came to dance.

The Smilin’ Buddha

Every action has a reaction, and this Hastings Street dive, which in its R&B days once played host to an unknown Jimi Hendrix, in the late 70s was the centre of Vancouver’s explosion of DIY punk culture.

Rohan’s Rockpile

In the 1970s, Fred Xavier’s club hosted eclectic hometown bands who performed for love instead of money. And then there was the night The Who came to play after an arena show.

The Body Shop

From the Pink Pussycat to the Shark Club, no Vancouver nightclub entrepreneur has been as smartly versatile as Roger Gibson. In the mid-70s, his Body Shop gave Vancouver radio rock acts like Prism a local home as the city’s musicians

The Town Pump

If you loved music and came of age in Vancouver in the 80s and 90s, Bob Burrows’s Town Pump is where you saw all those great bands before they either became huge or flamed out.


Before it became Bar None in 1992, this Yaletown club was the 80s gay hotspot cool, camp and also a great place for girls to dance without the annoyance of being groped by strange men with base ambitions.

The Roxy

White kids still line up down the block in front of the Roxy for what’s left of nightclub rock and perhaps a chance to see a puck bunny flash a Chicago Blackhawk.

River Rock Show Theatre

Once, Vancouver had the Cave. Now casinos siphon many veteran acts into bloodless suburban theatres. Will we one day wax nostalgic about their heyday?


Back to the September 2011 feature, “The Donnelly-ization of Vancouver Bars,” by Charles Campbell