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.
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.