Cecil's legendary stripper bar closes to make room for a new condo tower

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      The downtown watering hole that gave birth to the name of the Georgia Straight newspaper has served its last customer.

      The Cecil Hotel, which included one of the city’s most famous peeler bars, closed its doors on the B.C. Day weekend.

      In place of the 101-year-old hotel at the north end of the Granville Bridge will rise a 23-storey residential tower called the Rolston.

      The Cecil was a gathering place for journalists, environmentalists, and UBC students in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

      In 1967 over beers in the bar, Dan McLeod and artists Michael Morris and Glenn Lewis devised the name Georgia Straight, hoping to attract free publicity.

      That’s because radio newscasts of the era regularly issued gale warnings for the nearby body of water called Georgia Strait.

      Many of the founders of Greenpeace also drank in the bar in those days.

      In the mid-1970s, the Cecil started bringing in exotic dancers, which continued up until closing night.

      One former dancer contacted by the Straight today (August 3) said that in the 1980s, the Cecil was more like Playboy magazine and the movie Flashdance, whereas the Drake and the Marr were more hard-core, like Penthouse magazine and, on a bad day, like Hustler magazine.

      The manager of the bar, Joe Luciak, told the Straight by phone that there are a lot of negative stereotypes associated with strip clubs.

      However, he said that the staff, the dancers, and the customers were all quite emotional on the final night.

      "Dancers were crying in between the shows," Luciak said. "We did a photo montage on the big screen of the Cecil from the early '80s onward with any old artwork that we could have found. The DJs were crying."

      He also said the audience started chanting like they were at a World Cup soccer game.

      That's not to say that the Cecil didn't attract controversy at times in the past.

      In 2008, a massive barroom brawl erupted, reportedly involving 20 to 30 people. One man was shot dead in the head, with his body left outside near a dumpster.

      In the mid-to-late 1990s, the Vancouver police used to mention periodically that the Hells Angels sometimes hung out in the bar.

      On one occasion, then-police chief Ray Canuel wrote a report to the Vancouver Liquor Licensing Commission claiming that 10 Hells Angels attacked a man. Canuel's report also stated: “a police member was verbally abused in [the] bar by Hells Angels.”

      It wasn’t the only place where the Angels could be seen, according to Canuel. He also fingered the Drake Hotel in the report.

      "Over the years, there is lots of positives and negatives, but the Cecil was a legend and it will forever be remembered as a legend," Luciak said.

      The neighbourhood has undergone a transition in recent years with the addition of the nearby Vancity Theatre and upscale condo developments in what used to be known as Downtown South.

      The new LEED Gold condo tower on the site of the Cecil is being developed by Rize Alliance.

      The company is paying to upgrade 44 single-room-accommodation rooms in the Yale Hotel.

      "I know that the city is going to ensure that that affordable housing never becomes anything other than affordable housing, which is good," Luciak said.

      He added that the Yale’s blues bar will close temporarily during the renovation period, but it will remain open for a century after that point.

      Luciak's father, Waide, has owned the Yale for 24 years. He told the Straight that he hopes to create a new club called the Cave on the site of the Rolston.

      "With any luck, we'll be before council in September or October," Waide Luciak said.

      The Cave was a legendary club in the 600 block of Hornby Street from 1937 to 1981, featuring entertainers ranging from Tony Bennett and Ella Fitzgerald to Tina Turner and the Police.

      "I would try to come as close to the old Cave as possible," Waide Luciak noted.

      He pointed out that the old nightclubs in a bygone era had big booths, which isn't as easy to do these days because of the cost of real estate.

      "What I'm going to have is probably a maximum of 50 percent booth seating," he said. "The balance is going to be barstools and dance floors. It's going to have live music."

      Waide Luciak said he's hoping to appeal to two different audiences with two different shows each night.

      The early evening would have a supper-club feel targeted at people between 40 and 65 years of age. The later show, which would begin after 10 p.m. would be geared to people between the ages of 25 and 45.

      "That would be a different show and different live music," he added. "Sometimes, it would be a dance club."

      Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.

      Comments

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      13 Comments

      David L.

      Aug 3, 2010 at 7:34pm

      Ahh Schucks, the end of an era

      Gknee

      Aug 4, 2010 at 12:28am

      The Cecil finally goes tits up.

      GregW

      Aug 4, 2010 at 10:39am

      YAY the CAVE!!!

      Ex-Haney guy

      Aug 4, 2010 at 2:03pm

      I still have a chair that was "borrowed" from the Cecil-I'm sitting on it now-it cost me a case of beer. I'm so glad I've a bit of that place.

      David Davidson

      Aug 4, 2010 at 3:22pm

      Hey I'm glad they are going to use the Cave name again. It was the finest bottle club in the fifties, and I have many happy memories of it.

      Womyn

      Aug 4, 2010 at 7:08pm

      Glad to see it close, good riddance.

      R U Kiddingme

      Aug 5, 2010 at 8:55am

      That condo looks wackadoo! In a good way. I think.

      As for the loss of live peeler bars: mixed reactions over here. I think celebrations of sexuality are, um, awesome. I think that consenting adults should have a right to create and consume erotic entertainment. These places have a certain kitsch appeal and a historical value.

      They were also gross, of course.

      Beth

      Aug 6, 2010 at 7:35am

      Don't worry. You won't miss the Cecil, fellas. Step into the light and take a look around. Society has suceeded in empowering and liberating your "good" daughters and sisters to the point where they now openly take stripper classes as continuing education and brag about having stripper poles installed in their bedrooms. Now, men no longer need to go to the bar to get their fix. And they won't have to pay for sex afterwards either because it's hip and modern for women to just give it up after 5 minutes nowadays. Like I've always said, women who work as strippers and prostitutes (by choice) have long shown they have far more self regard and integrity than many "mainstream" women by charging men for the privilege. They're also some of the nicest, most bullshit-free women I've ever met.
      Beth

      witness protection program

      Aug 6, 2010 at 9:53am

      I wonder if the Hells Angels own any interest in Rize Alliance. That'd be a smart place to stash their $$.

      Dale Fuller

      Aug 6, 2010 at 10:06am

      In the 60s and 70s and even the 80s a bit, the Cecil was a gathering place for intellectuals and political leftists, so I've heard, but an elderly friend of mine told me that in the 30s it was also a favourite hangout of CCFers, including her.