Online map creates tour of Vancouver bars, nightclubs — that are no longer here, from Luv-A-Fair to The Cave
A Vancouver artist has created an open-source map that chronicles the city's bars, nightclubs, venues and art spaces, past and present.
Artist and musician Leah Abramson says she was inspired to create the map after she found herself walking the city and regularly coming across spots that used to be home to venues that closed years ago.
Around the same time, a friend posted something on social media lamenting places that have come and gone.
She created the map as research for an artist-lead walking tour with Vancouver's PuSh International Performing Arts Festival. Members of the public can add the name and location of venues. Abramson said she was surprised over how many people have contributed.
"There was just such an outpouring of love and nostalgia and grief for all the places that were gone," she said.
There are relatively few remnants of past Vancouver venues.
A plaque on the sidewalk outside a Prada store on Thurlow Street commemorates the site of Oil Can Harry's, a jazz club that closed in 1972. A plaque at the The Grace Residences on Richards Street notes the building's name is a reference to the fact the Graceland nightclub was located at the site.
Other nightspots are lost to time, replaced by condos or office buildings.
The Cave Supper Club, which hosted acts such as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Johnny Cash, was knocked down in 1981 to make room for an office tower on Hornby Street.
A 34-storey condo tower on Seymour Street was once home to Luv-A-Fair, a dance club that also hosted live acts. Nine Inch Nails played to 100 people at the club, Abramson says.
"It sounds like a pretty wild place in the best possible way ... It was sort of the counterculture spot where all the quote, unquote weirdos would hang out, but it sounds like probably the most fun place in the city."
Another famous nightspot, Richard's on Richards, is also now home to condos.
One historic spot that has endured is The Penthouse Night Club, which opened in 1947 and has been the scene of bawdy behaviour, a major fire, police raids, and even a murder.
Abramson hopes the map is a way to bring the city's history to life. She credits the work of writer Aaron Chapman, who chronicled the history of Vancouver nightlife in his 2019 book, Vancouver After Dark.
"When we lose these places in the city, the DNA of the city changes, I think," Chapman said back in 2019.
"This is where we as Vancouverites met, and when we lose these places somehow our connections change a little bit as well."
Abramson says the map tracks more than just bars and clubs. It also chronicles small artist studios and other shared spaces.
"I think some of the lesser known history ... artist spaces that were operational for a couple years, things like that, those are just in people's minds and once we're gone, they're gone."
LISTEN | The CBC's Margaret Gallagher tours Vancouver's former, famous night spots with Leah Abramson:
While the map records Vancouver's past and present, Abramson says there is hope for the city's future. While venues in the past may have been more clustered in spots like Downtown Vancouver, the future may be one that's more "scattered."
"I think that every neighbourhood has its little places where people go and gather and play music ... I think it's where space is available.
"The key is that Vancouver is always crunched for space — space is at a premium, real estate is at a premium — and so people go where they can and that changes with the city."