Vancouver Province column: Let’s stop measuring progress by by the number of condo projects

The Province
Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Vancouver is a great city with a pathetic bar scene.

Don’t take my word for it. Just ask those Canadians who took part in an opinion poll released last week by Angus Reid. In that survey, Vancouver ranked as the best to city to live or vacation in.

But for nightlife, those same respondents gave our West Coast metropolis a miserable zero per cent of the vote — behind even that well-known party city of Saskatoon.

And in an otherwise glowing travel article in the New York Times, writer Marc Weingarten proclaimed Vancouver’s clubs to be generic and disappointing.

Is the Vancouver bar scene really as ho-hum as Weingarten and other out-of-towners make it out to be?

For many Lower Mainlanders, the answer would be a resounding yes.

After all, we’re only a few years removed from the great Vancouver “No Fun City” crisis, when local politicians took the blame for an apparent lack of good times to be found here.

The Granville Street entertainment district attempted to undo that reputation with later drinking hours and a better selection of nightclubs and pubs.

Sadly, it also ushered in a new era of drunken mayhem in the area that had little to do with fun and more to do with late-night thuggery.

Beyond Granville, however, a major factor hampering the local drinking and dancing crowd in 2007 is runaway condominium construction.

The plague of condos downtown is eating up everything in its path, including some fondly-remembered bars and music venues.

Remember the Starfish Room?

It used to be one of Greater Vancouver’s most popular stages for up-and-coming music acts from across the continent — punk rockers, rappers and hippie-cowboy acts included.

Today, another vanilla-flavoured highrise condo sits in its place.

Hello granite countertops, cute dogs and low-fat lattes; goodbye dim lights, thick smoke and loud music.

More troubling is word that Richard’s on Richards, with its first-rate acoustics and history of inspired live performances, is also about to give way to more cookie-cutter shoeboxes in the sky.

That’s because the city’s plan for the Downtown South neighbourhood favours moving clubs like Richard’s out of this increasingly residential area and into the Granville Street mix. A proposal for a future tower on the site is already making the rounds on realtor websites.

Still downtown, the legendary Jolly Taxpayer Pub has also shut its doors to make way for a luxury-living development.

Sadly, Vancouver is not alone in B.C. in dealing with this disturbing trend. Last year, the Boot Pub in Whistler, a storied watering hole and music venue beloved alike by ski bums and tourists, shut its doors for good.

So what’s being built in the place of what they once called “the locals’ living room?” Million-dollar townhouses, of course.

And they call this progress?

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Filed under Entertainment, Gentrification, Nightlife, Real Estate, Vancouver, Vancouver Province Columns

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