British Columbia

Canadian musicians concerned about sale of Vancouver's Railway Club

Musicians across Canada fear music lovers could lose out because of one of the country's hottest real estate markets.

The Railway has hosted some of the country's biggest bands over the past 30 years

The neon sign at Vancouver's Railway Club. A listing for the club says the business is "priced to sell" at $299,000. (Paul Joseph/Flickr)

The looming sale of Vancouver's treasured Railway Club is worrying musicians across Canada, who fear music lovers could lose out because of one of the country's hottest real estate markets. 

The Railway Club, which opened in 1931, started hosting musicians in 1981 and has seen the likes of The Tragically Hip, Blue Rodeo and the Barenaked Ladies grace its stage. 

A listing for the venue says the sale is a "rare opportunity to take over an iconic Vancouver location" and that the business is "priced to sell" at $299,000. 

"Anybody who's anybody has played there over the years," said musician Del Cowsill, who started the Save the Railway Facebook page. "It's definitely an integral piece of the music scene in Canada."

Former Vancouverite Cowsill now lives in Toronto and has played the Railway several times. He said touring Canadian musicians put the venue on par with Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern or Calgary's Ironwood.

"I just don't want to see it go because I think it's such a great venue, and hearing of its sale, I was concerned that it might be another beloved venue that might become history," said Dell. 

The bar is located in a prime spot in downtown Vancouver, one of the country's most expensive cities for residential and commercial real estate. 

The last high-profile arts venue in Vancouver that met its demise was the Waldorf, which was sold to a real estate developer in 2013.

'A really special place': owner

Steve Silman has owned the Railway Club for the past seven years, and says the unrelenting work involved with running the place is what prompted him to sell.

"If I worked every day, 14 hours a day, I still wouldn't get everything done," he said. 

Still, he hopes the new owner will be someone who wants to continue the tradition of the Railway Club as one of Vancouver's longest-operating music venues.

"I don't know too many places that do what we do, having music every night," said Silman. 

"It's a really special place ... I'd like to see someone come in and do what we're doing now, and what the owners before us did."

With files from Maryse Zeidler and Kiran Dhillon


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