The First Look Inside Gastown’s Upcoming Beer-Themed “Bitter”

Operations manager Mike Mitchell and owner Sean Heather inside the construction site at 18 West Hastings

by Andrew Morrison | I was given a tour of the upcoming “Bitter” beer-themed restaurant the other day. The building that houses it on Hastings had been wrapped up in scaffolding for as long as I can remember, but it’s all been dismantled now and construction has begun in earnest. Scout broke the news of its coming back in January:

Sean Heather and Scott Hawthorn, partners at Salt Tasting Room and Judas Goat, are joining forces for a third time to open a new joint called Bitter. “It’s an extension of Salt, really” says Heather, “only its a beer format instead of wine”. Beers will be had in all guises and sizes, from tiny tasters to pitchers, while the food will see fresh pretzels, weisswurst, smoked sausage, house sauerkraut, currywurst, whole smoked ham hocks, pickled onions, scotch eggs, pork pies, and more. Bitter will land on the main floor of the oddly-shaped (flat-iron-ish) building at 18 West Hastings opposite Pigeon Park, and will sport some 140 seats, two entrances (one from the street and one from the back alley), a patio in Center A’s parking lot, a 20ft diameter circular bar and finishing kitchen around which diners will sit and be served, and my favourite thing of all..a neon sign flashing the word “BITTER”.

Much of the construction is being done off-site, so right now they’re in prep stage, making everything ready for plug and play installation which will probably go down in September. When it launches toward the end of October, we can expect some 50 beers available in an atmosphere reminiscent of Vancouver’s pre-Prohibition era when the ales, lagers and bitters flowed liberally from a multitude of local breweries.

A circular bar will dominate the strangely shaped space. It will be backed by what Heather calls a “tower of beer,” meaning a working, Wonka-esque display of kegs, pressure valves and lines.  Surrounding it will be wooden bench banquettes (think church pews) and walls of glass looking out onto the street and through to the white picket fence-enclosed patio (shaded by a pair of leafy trees).

True to the heritage of the building, there are mosaic floors that are in the process of being patched and restored, cool girder beams across the ancient wood-slatted ceilings and lots and lots of gnarly red brick. The back of the space, which funnels to a point like the prow of a ship (sailing toward the Pender gate to Chinatown), will see an 18 seat semi-private room with a flatscreen TV for Canucks games and, typical in Heather ventures, an alleyway entrance for take-out fare. Take a look inside below, and please forgive the shaky camera work as I just got off crutches…

  • Bitter exterior
  • Bitter exterior
  • Bitter exterior
  • Bitter exterior
  • Bitter interior looking north from the private room to the main bar area
  • The exit to the patio
  • Sean and Mike
  • Bitter interior
  • Bitter interior detail
  • Heritage brick column
  • Interior detail
  • Beam work
  • Brick
  • Laying mosaic fixes
  • Laying mosaic fixes
  • Laying mosaic fixes
  • Bar front
  • Patio area looking onto Hastings
  • Patio
  • Patio
  • Sean Heather


There are 6 comments

  1. Hoping this is more like the Alibi Room then it is like Salt. Looking forward to it opening, I’m sure it’ll be one of the places to be during Beer Week 2012.

  2. I’m still limping like a mummy, but it’s getting better. The doctor says I can get back to doing really stupid things soon. Thanks for asking.

  3. I know it’s probably waaaay too late, but if my opinion is worth anything, I really hope Sean honours the history of his location- being next to the old BC Electric building. Picture it: tram seating, route maps, railway ties, old relics… it’s how our city came to be.

  4. Call it Heather The Tank Engine? The staff could wear engineer caps and every time a tap is pulled there can be a train whistle. Go dioramas!