Astoria Hotel 769 East Hastings.
The blinking neon hasn't been working properly since 2006
and all the neon was stripped off in fall 2007. There
has been some work done on painting the metalwork so let's
hope it's being restored. If you have any info on the
status of this great sign pls send an email. C.D.
Sicon Neon of Richmond has
been working on a total restorartion of the neon and have
patched and painted the metalwork. It should be finished
sign is finished and looks great.
Urban Farm-Garden Raising!
24 10 2009
Projects in Place is gearing up for our latest community
build and we're looking for volunteers! SOLEfood, an initiative
of United We Can, will see the creation of an urban farm
on five vacant lots next to the Astoria
Hotel in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side.
The Farm will transform more than 15,000 square feet of
unused asphalt parking space at the corner Hastings and
Hawks Ave into a fully functioning farm. Through this
project inner city residents will find employment; community
kitchens will gain a valuable source of local and organic
food; and community members can find a social hub and
Projects In Place, Sharp & Diamond Landscape Architects
Inc. have been working with United We Can develop a master
plan and Vision for the farm. This first build is part
of a larger initiative undertaken by Save Our Living Environment
of the many groups involved in this project include:
Building Opportunities with Business
Kristina Welch and the Centre for Sustainability and Social
Louise of the Recycling Alternative
Toby Barazzuol of Eclipse Awards and SBIA
Green Inner-city Cluster members
Participants and organizers of last week’s Ideas
Next week’s build will see the first phase of the
farm become a reality. By Spring of 2010, the hope is
to have a fully functioning urban farm along Hastings
out to help bring this new development into being Saturday
October 31st. We will be kicking off the farm raising
at 10am. Light refreshments will be provided. Participants
will build planters, compost bins, a community mural and
a garden shed. Volunteer spots may be limited. For more
information and pre-registration please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
BARS HOST HIP SCENE
As the downtown club scene loses live music venues,
Skid Road bars take on a hipper edge
Saturday, December 15, 2007
near midnight Tuesday and waves of cute college-age hipsters
are strolling down East Hastings and heading into the pub at
the Astoria Hotel, where serial killer Robert (Willie) Pickton
was not too long ago one of the regulars.
walk in smiling, exchange hugs with earlier arrivals, remove
their thrift-store jackets and grab beers. Tonight the Astoria,
one of the most notorious pubs in the Downtown Eastside, is
a clubhouse for indie kids.
an east-side bar, the Astoria has had its share of the darker
elements," says Randy (Yogi) Gregoras, the doorman charged with
weeding out undesirables.
people don't have to worry about their safety the way they used
to. It's a younger crowd now that we're trying to market to."
Turkington, 22, is standing on a podium in the back of the room,
setting up his computer to play the MP3 files for tonight's
tunes. Turkington and two other friends are DJs who put on a
dance night, called Friendship, every Tuesday at the Astoria.
and Michael take in the colourful surroundings of the new
Biltmore Cabaret at Kingsway and 12th Avenue -- booths against
red velvet walls. The club in the Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel,
formerly the Biltmore Hotel, was the creation of Zak Pashak,
27. Vancouver's lack of venues pushes people to 'whatever
place will open its doors,' he says.
Stille, who runs the bar and books entertainment acts
for the revived Astoria Hotel on East Hastings, is excited
about changes to the area. He says the Astoria, which
traditionally attracted an older crowd, now aims for a
photos : Mark Van Manen, Vancouver Sun
are a few characters who wouldn't seem out of place in a Charles
Bukowski novel -- the guy with his dog at the bar, the friendly
first nations couple who are dancing, infamous slumlord and
Astoria owner Paul Sahota who is behind the bar ("Please no
negative publicity," he tells a reporter) and Bobby Beckman,
57, who sits quietly with his beer.
used to be the easterly end of the war zone, which is the war
on drugs, which was lost. But you never seen any drugs in here
any more," said Beckman.
younger people come in later with the band and by then I've
usually gone home. But, yea, we've got some good clientele here
never had any doubt that he and his buddies could attract a
crowd of other mostly middle-class young adults -- pre-kids,
pre-mortgage -- just like them to come down and party on the
all, single room occupancy hotels housing mostly welfare recipients
and east-side warehouses with their cheap drinks and rough-hewn
interiors have been key party venues over the past four years
for alternative scenesters -- cool counterpoints to the mainstream
Granville Street bar scene with its reputation for drunks, drugs,
loud hip-hop beats and violence.
kind of trendy to go hang out at the dive bar," said Turkington.
"There are a lot of kids -- like privileged kids from the west
side -- that I see coming to these places.
don't need to. But it's cool. It's hip."
cheap pitchers of beer add to the appeal of the lumpenproletariat
bars, the real economic impetus behind the Downtown Eastside
indie scene is the incredible escalation of land values in the
proliferation of condominium towers in the downtown has driven
out large live music venues such as the Starfish Room. Richards
on Richards is expected to meet a similar fate soon. In recent
months other clubs have gone under: the Marine Club, the Buffalo
Club, the Lamplighter, the Gecko Club.
challenge facing live music promoters is made even tougher by
tough liquor licensing requirements -- rules that forced the
bohemian Sugar Refinery out of business in 2003.
industry veteran Sean McKay of SPM Music says the Skid Road
hotels became a "default" option for promoters as music venues
was a time when I would never have considered doing a show at
the Picadilly Hotel. But as we starting losing places, it suddenly
became one of the best places to put on a show," says McKay.
ended up with these hotels like the Astoria that are becoming
new element in the scene is the Internet. The east-side dance
nights are easy and cheap to promote because of the social networking
capacity provided by Facebook and My Space. People learn from
their "friends" about events and tell their other "friends."
They see who will be there and who they might talk to.
Turkington lives in a cheap (for Vancouver) apartment in nearby
Strathcona. He's done two years of liberal arts courses at Douglas
College. He serves food at a restaurant and sells clothes at
American Apparel. And he gets a cut of the Astoria bar take
when he puts on his Friendship party on Tuesdays.
said the gentrification of the Skid Road bar scene has been
going on for a number of years, starting with pubs like the
Cambie Hotel, the Cobalt Hotel, the Patricia Hotel, the Columbia
Hotel, Funky Winker Beans, the Brickyard and the Royal Unicorn
in Chinatown -- even the Balmoral Hotel, another Pickton hangout
where the bands playing Friday night included Elton Bong and
Broken Condom Babies.
lots of kids who are more into the arts scene and living in
Strathcona close to the Downtown Eastside because of its cheap
rent, right," said Turkington. "Basically, it's like gentrification
in any city."
compares the Downtown Eastside dance party scene to the the
gentrification that turned the gritty Brooklyn neighbourhood
of Williamsburg into a trendy place for eating, drinking and
open for business
bartender/events coordinator Milton Stille said that events
such as Turkington's Friendship have helped remind people that
the pub is open for business again. (The Astoria pub was closed
down for three months in 2006 and a year before that it was
targeted by the police in a string operation that uncovered
rampant drug use and fencing of stolen goods. Astoria owner
Sahota recently endured more bad press when his failure to repair
a leaky roof on a Pandora Street apartment building he owns
was blamed for forcing 50 low-income people out of their east
25, said the Astoria has traditionally attracted an older crowd.
"Now that we're aiming for a younger demographic, it's definitely
going through a bit of a change and that's quite an understatement."
Zarzynfki, 22, comes regularly to this dance night at the Astoria.
She says it's the low incomes of most of her young friends that
is shaping the Hastings Street hipster scene.
like the Mods of the year 2007," said Zarzynfki. "The reason
we go to these dive bars isn't because it's a fad. It's because
it's all we can afford. Economics always influences subcultures."
of the minor celebrities in this subculture is Jason Sulyma,
aka My!Gay!Husband!, the godfather of the skids DJs. Wearing
his trademark baller cap slightly askew, Sulyma stands outside
the Astoria Tuesday and recalls how he and a few others promoted
and staged the music nights that drew kids to Skid Road.
more of community scene here as opposed to people coming to
a party strip like Granville. Many of these kids here have no
money to spend. But the more creative bars took on our clientele
because these kids were setting the tone for style and taste
in the future."
says that contrary to the Downtown Eastside's image, there is
little risk of violence for the middle-class kids coming to
the mean streets for good times.
theory is that junkies don't need to be violent in Vancouver
because drugs are cheap and plentiful -- and users aren't hassled
by the police.
who is known for his skill with mashups (a remix or combination
of different tracks with vocals from one laid over the other)
took his My!Gay!Husband! show to the influential South By Southwest
music festival this year in Austin, Tex.
audience Sulyma has nurtured on the east side has become so
strong that bookers at Richards On Richards recruited him for
their Friday nights.
of bars ebbs and flows
coolness of the various skid road bars ebbs and flows, according
to Sulyma. When a bar creates enough of a buzz on Facebook or
in the media that it begins to attract poseurs or, worse, jocks
-- the bar's cool factor becomes diluted and the pioneers or
early adapters move on.
a formerly hip bar loses its indie cred and "turns into a horrible
bar and burns out then we leave and go somewhere else," said
Yow, a Langara student and writer at Discorder Magazine, says
"there are definitely some people who are slumming to come to
these things, but at the same time there is no place else for
us to go.
I'm not someone who lives in the Downtown Eastside but the music
I love lives in the Downtown Eastside because there is nowhere
else for it to be."
Poaps, a 28-year-old alternative music fan, similarly laments
the squeeze put on live music venues. "I think the densification
of the downtown is extremely important but that it came at the
expense of live music and culture is a bit of a tragedy."
Poaps is hopeful about the growth of venues in east Vancouver.
On Monday night, she attended the opening of the new Biltmore
Cabaret at Kingsway and 12th Avenue.
Buttless Chaps and the Choir Practice -- two local Mint Records
bands that are local indie favourites -- played to about 100
people who enjoyed free alcohol and food and checked out the
decor, which the cabaret's new owners bill as a mix of New Orleans
Gothic bordello with 1940s Shanghai show lounge.
in a booth against a decadent red velvet wall, Poaps recalls
the Biltmore's dodgy past.
really ever came to the Biltmore. Or if they came it was because
it was ironic to go to a divy place and drink Molson Canadian
and see some funny karaoke.
wasn't a venue that anyone took seriously. Until now."
new club at the Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel (formerly the Biltmore
Hotel) is the creation of Zak Pashak, 27, who also runs a club
and festival promoting alternative bands in Calgary. He knew
about the strong demand for new live music venues in Vancouver
and believes the Biltmore's 362-person capacity will fill some
of that need.
a lack of venues that is pushing people in Vancouver to find
whatever they can -- whatever place will open its doors," says
says the club's music will be similar to the programming at
most college radio stations -- no top-40, no hip hop.
of the thinking behind the Biltmore revamp can be gleaned from
Pashak's blog, where he wrote about why he started a similar
alternative venue in Calgary.
I was growing up I assumed that other cities didn't have the
same 'frat boy to stockbroker' clubs that so grossly manipulate
their clientele into thinking they are having a good time.
I know better. Montreal, Halifax and Vancouver all have the
same s----y places that we do."
Biltmore's new management team is aware that the Kingsway pub
has had a sketchy reputation. "It's been through some pretty
seedy times," says bar manager Scott Musgrave. "I know a few
girls who got their teeth knocked out in this place over the
counter this uncool image, the new Biltmore Cabaret even plans
to get its bulky doormen to wear black "so they can just blend
in and don't look like the doormen who everybody hates," says
Musgrave. And the new cabaret plans to publish a fanzine called
unlike the young DJs who put on events on Hastings Street, the
people behind the Biltmore are trying to market a vibe distinct
from the party-hearty one on Granville Street.
are tired of going downtown where every club is the same," says
just the same meatheads fighting the same guys and the same
chicks that look like hookers."
as Biltmore marketing manager Michael Venus put it: "I think
a lot of people, myself included, are over downtown just because
of the thugs-are-us mentality. There's an alternative needed."
Biltmore's management believes its location is perfect -- in
the middle of the alternative youth scenes around Main Street
and Commercial Drive.
are kids who are more intellectual in their musical tastes and
are less inclined to mix downtown with the thugs from the suburbs,"
says Biltmore manager Richard Roloff, aka DJ Dickey Doo, on
the phone from the Canary Islands, where he is working as a
new-school Biltmore is aimed at Emily Carr School of Art types,
says Roloff. "These are people who don't want to hear Beyonce."