Venews: The Yale Hotel

by Jon Peschin

On November 21, the historic Yale Hotel will close its doors for a twelve month refurb, upgrading its seismic, electrical and plumbing systems in the process. While the structure will be joining the 21st century, the rest of the iconic club, which at 130 years is older than the city itself, will remain rooted in its varied and rich history.

Built in 1881, the club survived the great fire of 1886 because it was the only brick building in town, and has served the city in various ways ever since. Initially used as a beer and whiskey joint with a CN bunkhouse upstairs for 165 rail workers, it’s been the home of rhythm and blues since 1985. Owner Waide Luciak’s family became its stewards in 1987.

Stella Panagiotidis, the club’s marketing manager, has worked with music director Joe Luciak (Waide’s son) to grow that heritage – diversifying the music and establishing partnerships with local festivals to keep the club a part of the city’s cultural fibre. She notes that “the Yale’s identity will not change”, and will continue to be the province’s largest employer of local musicians.

The club’s recent history will meet its very early roots with the redesign. The elder Luciak explained that the back two-thirds of the building was added a short time after the front, and the two sections will be treated to reflect their different histories.

The front will be an homage to the 1880’s streetscape of Vancouver, including bringing back the original architecture with a more opened-glass façade. The back, meanwhile, will be all about the blues bar. The current plethora of black and white photographs will remain, but the refit will give the Yale’s historical flavour a tweak. A kitchen will be added, the bar redesign will be inspired by the early years of the club, and the seismic upgrades will raise the ceiling and improve sight lines (aiding the already great acoustics). As Joe pointed out, “bass players will no longer have to hide behind a load bearing column.”

If you want to check out the bar at least a couple more times before it closes this month, starting this Monday (November 16), the Yale will be hosting a number of nightly bashes. Acts that will take the stage include Chilliwack, David Gogo, Murray Porter, Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne, Jerry Doucette, and the celebration closes out with a grand finale on November 20 featuring the Dal Richards Orchestra and blues guitarist Jim Byrnes. You can check out the full schedule here.

So get ready to toast this great club, and see you at the re-opening in early 2013.