British Columbia

With a rich history of nightlife, Vancouver has never been 'No Fun City,' author argues

From bars to supper clubs, nightclubs and discotheques, Vancouver has always been home to a vibrant nightlife — all the way back to the opening of the Globe Saloon in 1867, says Aaron Chapman, author of the new history Vancouver After Dark.

From bars to supper clubs, nightclubs and discotheques, the city has always been vibrant, Aaron Chapman says

The band Killing Joke plays at Luv-A-Fair in 1982. (Bev Davies)

A city that was built around a saloon should never have earned the nickname "No Fun City." 

So says author and historian Aaron Chapman, whose new book Vancouver After Dark takes a leisurely stroll through 100 years of the city's nightlife.

"There's always been people who have managed to get around some of the laws or simply push through them and to create what became these clubs," Chapman told The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn.

"Entertainment and bars have always been a part of the city in that way."

From bars to supper clubs, nightclubs and discotheques, Chapman says the city has always been home to a vibrant nightlife. And that goes all the way back to the aforementioned Gastown establishment, the Globe Saloon, opened by "Gassy Jack" Deighton in 1867. 

Vancouver After Dark is filled with stories from the city's legendary bars and nightclubs, as well as photos, some of which have never been published before. 

Members of the band Supergrass in the lounge at the Town Pump. (Kevin Statham)

Chapman, who has also written histories of Vancouver's Commodore Ballroom and the city's Penthouse nightclub, expanded his scope for his latest book. It was born, he said, of conversations with people of different generations who remembered the clubs and bars where they spent their youth. 

"Vancouverites of a certain age might still talk about The Cave. Somebody more my age might remember the Town Pump and Luv-A-Fair," he said.

"It seemed like every generation had its own place that they miss in Vancouver." 

It's been about 100 years since what we consider nightclubs first started to emerge in North America, said Chapman. Since those very early days, Vancouver has had a unique live music scene because it's well placed geographically, he said.

Even way back in the vaudeville days, he said, bands would start their tours here and work their way down the West Coast. 

"When they got to Los Angeles where a lot of the booking agents and, arguably, maybe the bigger population was, the show was ready. So Vancouver got named 'Tune-up City' by that crowd and that still happens today, when you think of all the tours that start here in Vancouver," he said.

'Vancouverites of a certain age might still talk about The Cave ... It seemed like every generation had its own place that they miss in Vancouver,' author Aaron Chapman says. (Neptoon Records Archives)

Chapman's interview received a huge response from The Early Edition listeners, many of whom wrote in with their own memories of seeing artists such as Ella Fitzgerald and Johnny Cash live at The Cave. 

Chapman said it's significant that people still talk about clubs and bars that disappeared decades ago. As Vancouver has grown and developed and struggled with increasing real estate prices, the loss of certain nightspots has changed the culture of the city.

"When we lose these places in the city, the DNA of the city changes, I think," he said. 

"This is where we as Vancouverites met, and when we lose these places somehow our connections change a little bit as well."


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