decades of frowning upon neon signs, the city of Vancouver is
now encouraging businesses to bring them back to downtown Granville
Today, one of the biggest new neon signs to be erected on Granville
in decades will go up between the Orpheum theatre and the Commodore.
The seven-metre high, two-metre wide neon sign is for the Cafe
Crepe, a Parisian-style cafe that will be opening in mid-July
at 874 Granville. In keeping with the cafe's decor, the red neon
letters are done in an art deco style.
sign cost a lot of money -- it's far beyond what we would normally
do," said Kerry Bonnis, co-owner of Cafe Crepe.
we thought it would be a great opportunity for exposure for our
[restaurant]. And also it's in keeping with what's going on with
The city changed the sign bylaws three years ago to encourage
businesses to use neon on Granville. Essentially, if you go with
neon, you can have a much bigger sign.
The city hopes that downtown Granville Street will recapture some
of the lustre it had during the 1940s and '50s, when it had so
many neon signs it was dubbed "the Great White Way."
In Granville's golden age, stores and restaurants would go to
great lengths to try to outdo each other -- the White Lunch restaurant's
sign featured a giant neon coffee cup with steam rising out of
it and a spinning base/saucer with cooks, waiters, and customers.
The Cafe Crepe sign isn't animated, but it is fairly elaborate.
The sign will be in four tiers, with a stainless steel base and
three layers of Cafe Crepe lettering, each one slightly smaller
than the other. The base and first layer of letters will be silver,
the next layer will be burgundy, and the neon on top will be red.
night it's going to be really something," said Glen Clark (yes,
the former premier), manager of the Pattison Sign Group.
be really bright. It's what we call con red, for conventional
neon. It's the real neon, as opposed to argon. Most coloured neon
signs are actually argon gas, which is a blue gas, whereas the
conventional neon is red gas."
sign is part of an extensive restoration of the facade of the
old State Hotel, built in 1909 but damaged in a 1975 fire. Bonnis
said he is spending "an absurd amount" on the facade and cafe,
which will have a marble front, marble floors and cherrywood paneling.
here for the long run," said Bonnis, who also co-owns the Commodore
building and the empty lot in the 700-block Granville where a
Future Shop and Winners will be opening next spring.
design ethic is that we're building for 300, 400 years, in the
grand tradition of the cafes that were built in Europe and South
America. We're using the highest quality materials."
Bonnis said neon was a natural fit for the cafe, because it was
a staple in the art deco era and works well in Vancouver's many
lot of marketing people say signage is your cheapest form of advertising,"
Bonnis said. "There's a lot of activity going on on the street,
with new retailers coming in, nightclubs and restaurants. We want
this street to be alive and exciting, and neon is a really great
way to achieve that at nighttime. Especially in the winter, when
it gets dark at 4:30, five o'clock."
Granville's biggest booster, nightclub owner Blaine Culling, said
the sign will be a "spectacular" addition to the street.
projects like that that are going to lead the way, getting some
visual energy onGranville street," Culling said. "To me, neon
says adventure and fun, a lively space. It also means the area
Businessman Jim Pattison donated the landmark Orpheum neon sign
to the city in the 1970s. He has fond memories of Granville's
neon era, and hopes it can be revived.
I was growing up, there was more neon on that Granville street
than you can believe," said Pattison, who discovered neon's drawing
power when he helped design the landmark Bow Mac sign in 1958.
delighted to hear there's neon coming back into Granville street.
That will really do a lot, in my opinion, for that part of town."
In other Granville news, Culling said work should begin soon on
a new bar/restaurant called Skybar at the southeast corner of
Granville and Smithe, with a projected fall opening. The Luv-a-fair
Cabaret also hopes to open its new location in the old Caprice
Theatre in September or October.