Historic Yale Hotel set to reopen soon with new owner

But blues lovers will have to wait to see if their fave music will continue to be showcased

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      Vancouver’s revered Yale Hotel, a bastion of the blues for decades until it shut down for renovations in late 2011, has been sold and should reopen in the near future.

      But lovers of 12-bar blues will have to wait a while longer to find out if their groove haven will be returned to them.

      Principals involved in the sale, which actually took place early this year with little to no fanfare, are keeping close-mouthed about whether or not the venerable establishment—built in 1889 as a bunkhouse for Canadian Pacific Railway workers and travellers and first called the Colonial Hotel—will resume its storied love affair with the legendary musical form.

      The Yale Hotel, circa 1944.
      City of Vancouver archives

      A small list of famed artists who have performed at the Yale, not all of them blues or R & B stars, includes Long John Baldry, James Cotton, Pinetop Perkins, Jeff Healey, Canned Heat, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Page, the Chambers Brothers, Sunnyland Slim, Buddy Miles, Charlie Musselwhite, Johnny Winter, Powder Blues, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Downchild Blues Band, Supertramp, George Thorogood, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Savoy Brown, Buckwheat Zydeco, and David “Honeyboy” Edwards.

      Celebrities and members of many other visiting acts would show up regularly in the audience, and the venue at 1300 Granville hosted blues jams and showcased local players and bands for decades.

      CBRE realtor Mario Negris acted for the Yale’s vendor and told the Straight that the buyer, MRG Ventures Ltd., “has other interests on Granville. I believe they’re going to keep it as an entertainment venue.”

      Vancouver-based MRG Ventures operates several clubs and restaurants in Toronto as well as the Vogue Theatre and the Biltmore Cabaret in Vancouver. MRG sold its in-house ticket outfit, Northern Tickets, to San Francisco–based Ticketfly in March this year.

      Fellow CBRE realtor Alex Bassos told the Straight he couldn’t reveal many details about the latest incarnation of one of Vancouver’s oldest buildings. “I do know there will be some stuff coming out very shortly,” he hinted, before allowing: “It is going to be a bar.”

      He said he understood there were some “permitting issues” with the City of Vancouver causing some delays, then added: “But I’m not the one to speak on that.”

      MRG’s senior vice president of development, Scott Rowe, told the Straight from Toronto in the last week of July that he would return a call but failed to do so. Another message left several days later went unanswered.

      Former owner Waide Luciak ran the three-storey Second Empire/Baroque–style structure as a blues club since 1987 until he struck a deal a few years ago with a development company planning a condo tower, the Rolston, next door on the site of the historic Cecil Hotel.

      As part of a complicated bargain, Luciak sold the Yale to the developer, who spent 18 months renovating the property and preserving 44 SRO housing units above the pub before selling it back to Luciak and pocketing a density transfer that allowed the addition of several more stories next door.

      Luciak then put the building—with its distinctive mansard roof, red-brick cladding, and gabled dormer windows—up for sale last year. At the time, he told the Straight: “It was never our intention to sell the Yale.…We try really hard to put great music acts out there, but audiences just don’t show up the way they used to, and they don’t drink the way they used to.”

      He went on to open FanClub down the street, at 1050 Granville, which is now known as the Granville Strip.

      Follow Martin Dunphy on Twitter @martindunphy.

      Comments

      14 Comments

      L. Wiseman

      Aug 12, 2015 at 9:20am

      Jimmy Page? When would that have been? That's wild!

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      JamieLee

      Aug 12, 2015 at 9:36am

      This story misses a key question. Did the Yale liquor license travel down the street with Wade Luciak to the Fan Club now Granville Strip? If this is the case I wonder if those 'permitting issues' are a result of not having a current liquor license at the Yale? Why does Martin Dunphy just overlook this point in his otherwise interesting article?

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      Blues Boy Bruce

      Aug 12, 2015 at 12:24pm

      I know that the Luciak's brought the liquor license from The Cecil to Fan Club which is why they were able to shift direction and move from live music to show room programming at the new Granville Strip. While impossible to name ALL of the acts who played at The Yale the writer omitted both Junior Wells and Dr. John, two of the best shows I saw there. Rumors are circulating that The Yale will be a "combo" country and blues venue. We have a dearth of live music in this town so one can only hope.

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      James Blatchford

      Aug 12, 2015 at 12:49pm

      ...and Sonny Landreth!

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      JamieLee

      Aug 12, 2015 at 1:45pm

      Why does this article not reference that the Luciak's owned the Cecil as the poster above states? Or did they? A question is then raised if the Rolston property developer which bought the Cecil and Yale property if part of the deal to get extra density bonus was the trading of the Cecil liquor license to Mr Waide Luciak this raises flags of whether it is legal to transfer/sell liquor licences in this manner. And because the City of Vancouver approves all liquor licences in the city were they actively involved in negotiations here? And of course there is the important question of whether Vancouver got any deal as the SRO rooms at the Cecil were never replaced and therefore desperately needed social housing was lost.

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      Martin Dunphy

      Aug 12, 2015 at 1:49pm

      JamieLee:

      To tell the truth, any questions about the liquor licence couldn't be further away from my mind with regard to this story, unless there was a question of illegality or corruption, etcetera. Those eight blocks or so of Granville have more licensed seats, probably, than any stretch of street in Canada. I'm sure you WILL get a licence there if you open a bar. Period.

      Bruce and James: Yes, I am sure there are dozens more acts I either couldn't find or didn't have room for (I was going to list only four or five, but I couldn't stand the thought of leaving so many out). Some (possibly less than reliable) accounts have Stevie Ray Vaughan playing the Yale, but I couldn't confirm. And Buddy Guy?

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      Meatballs

      Aug 12, 2015 at 7:51pm

      Yes Buddy Guy played the Yale in 1989. I should know. I was in charge of his spare tire ie magnum of burbon and spare pants as he would seem to have a wardrobe malfunction at least once a week. It was a heck of a gig for a fresh faced 19 year old.

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      Jay Mann

      Aug 12, 2015 at 10:55pm

      "but audiences just don’t show up the way they used to"
      I played there many many times from 2001 up until the closing weekend.
      Not once did I play to anything other than a completely packed room. Then it closed and after what seemed like forever, the Fan Club opened. I played there once to a less than packed crowd with a DJ playing dance music in between sets...at a blues show...
      That crowd is still out there looking for the right room.

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      James Blatchford

      Aug 12, 2015 at 11:14pm

      Martin - an impossible task to "name a few". Sonny Landreth would probably endorse your list. And Walter Trout.

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      Greg K Smith

      Aug 13, 2015 at 7:27am

      Let's hope it remains a Blues bar, it had a large customer base.

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