Know your history - Bar None

The next time you’re at Yaletown’s Bar None (1222 Hamilton Street), you might want to consider ordering a Horse’s Neck in honour of the club’s past. Back when art deco was the hottest trend in design and the streets of Vancouver were mostly made of mud, the room served as the sleeping quarters for some of the hardest workers in the city.

“This used to be where the horses slept that were used by Woodward’s,” says Bar None co-owner Mike Shea. “They were the horses that were used to deliver milk.”

Zoned for commercial and light-industrial use in the Roaring Twenties, Yaletown wasn’t all barns back in the day. The neighbourhood was home to many of the city’s oldest warehouses, which today have largely been converted into condos.

As horses gave way to automobiles, the location now known as Bar None changed with the times. After years as a hardware store, it was reborn as the Gandydancer in the early ’80s. Known as a straight-friendly gay bar, the Gandy was one of Vancouver’s hottest clubs for the first half of the Me Decade. Musically, it was also one of the most cutting-edge rooms in the city; long before Eurythmics and New Order crashed the mainstream, you heard their records spun at the Gandy.

Bar None opened its doors in 1992, with Shea and his partner taking over the room two years ago.

“It was kind of a tough crowd in here when we bought it,” he admits. “We did some renovations and changed the music to make it what it is now: a nice Yaletown-type bar.”

Shea admits the renos didn’t unearth much in the way of old treasures; no Woodward’s milk bottles or turn-of-the-last-century horseshoes were discovered. Still, he says that the beauty of the room is that, while spiffed up considerably, in some ways it hasn’t changed much since the days when dogs weren’t the only four-legged creatures trotting around Yaletown.

“We were happy to get this room,” Shea says, “because you don’t see many like it, with the real natural brick and big wooden beams and pillars. It’s a super-old-style building. The shell of the room is just gorgeous, and the location in Yaletown is fabulous. The goal was to have a real fun, outgoing, safe bar in the heart of downtown, and that’s just what we’ve been able to do.”