web statistics
blarney stone

Know Your History - Blarney Stone
Carral St. Gastown

By Mike Usinger: February 2006

Three decades ago, the area immediately around Gastown's Blarney Stone was as close as you could get in Vancouver to Ireland's fabled Temple Bar district without stepping onto a plane. "There used to be five Irish bars on the corners of Cordova and Carrall streets," says Eddie Emerman, who bought the Blarney Stone last year. "There was the Blarney Stone, the Spinning Wheel was next door, the Pig and Whistle was across the street, where the Brickyard is now was an Irish bar, and there was another Irish bar-I can't remember the name-where they built the Van Horne project." The Blarney Stone is the last of those rooms standing today, attracting long lineups of ready-to-party university students every weekend. That wasn't always the bar's target demographic, however. "In the '70s and '80s, the Blarney Stone was more of an upscale Irish lounge and cabaret," Emerman explains. "The clientele was more in their 30s and 40s. That all changed in the late '80s." Before we get to that, let's back up a bit. The building that houses the Blarney Stone went up in 1888, with all the lumber used in its construction milled on-site. "It was built as the Klondike Hotel, and had four storeys at the time and the first two elevators in Vancouver," Emerman reveals. "In 1942, the building was converted to Vancouver's first government liquor store. Upstairs became a rooming house like everything else in the area." The transformation to the Blarney Stone pub started in 1968. "Four Irish guys bought the building," Emerman relates. "Gastown at the time was really up-and-coming, and they wanted to open an Irish bar with apartments upstairs. They hired a German guy to build it for them. When he finished, the guys ran out of money, and he ended up winning the bar in court. That's how a German guy named Rudi became the owner of one of Vancouver's most popular Irish bars." The renovations from that period attracted plenty of attention. "The suites upstairs are really cool," Emerman says. "In the '70s there was a huge travelling circuit for bands in North America. There were no DJs at the time-any good bar had live music. The Blarney Stone's upstairs rooms were used by these bands. Playboy magazine in 1978 named one of the suites as the most eligible bachelor pad in Canada." In 1987, Charles Kelly bought the Blarney Stone, which brings us back to the years when the clientele was a bit more upscale. At that time, Killarney-which still performs on weekends today-was the house band, presumably playing covers of "Danny Boy" for a demographic nostalgic for the Emerald Isle. When that crowd dropped off at the end of the '80s, Kelly decided to mix things up. "With the bar suffering a bit, a guy from UBC-I think his name was Craig-told the band to turn things up as loud as possible, and then invited all his college buddies down. From that point on, it became a college-party pub, and that's what the Blarney Stone is today."

Help support this website by making a donation.

Donations of$20 or more recieve a free poster.


All photos copyright © Christian Dahlberg except where stated otherwise. All rights reserved.
Vancouver panorama photo © Vancouver Lookout. www.vancouverlookout.com