From Gender-Segregation to Gay Protest, This Gorgeous Vancouver Beer Parlour Saw it All

The Craft Beer Atlas of Vancouver will keep you informed not only on where your beer scene is going but also on where it has been. We’ve plotted local tastings rooms, restaurants with extensive tap lists, craft beer-friendly liquor stores, and fascinating brew-centric points of interest on a zoomable map that functions as well on your phone as it does on your desktop. The ever-evolving A-Z of our city’s relationship with beer aims to encourage locals and visitors to responsibly explore every facet – both past and present – of our little corner of the brewing world. Enjoy it, responsibly!

image via “A History of the Castle Hotel, 1908-1990” by Glen A. Mofford

750 Granville Street was once upon a time home to the four-storey, 135-room Castle Hotel (previously known as The Windsor, built in 1908), which saw its gorgeous, elaborately tapestried main floor bar and lounge transformed into men and women’s beer parlours a year after the end of prohibition in 1922 and a full three years before beer parlours were legally allowed to exist in Vancouver (using the law’s “private club” loophole, wherein patrons paid a small membership fee).

Beers, most likely local stuff from Vancouver Breweries Ltd. and the like (further reading: The Craft Beer Atlas of Vancouver), were sold here for twenty cents a bottle.

Note that gender-segregated drinking wasn’t enshrined in local law until the middle of the Second World War (1942); The Castle Hotel was thus ahead (more accurately, behind) the curve on this by two decades.

According to Glen A. Mofford’s excellent “A History of the Castle Hotel, 1908-1990” by Glen A. Mofford, the beer parlour was known as a gay and transgender hangout from the early 1950s on. In the early 1970s, despite a straight management that often kicked same-sex patrons out (for physical expressions of affection), the beer parlour was a social hub of Vancouver’s gay community and the location of a legendary “kiss in” protest by the Gay Liberation Front.

Here’s Gordon Hardy reminiscing in a 2008 Daily Extra article:

“Our first political action took place at the Castle Hotel beer parlour on Granville St, a straight-owned and -operated gay pub that strictly enforced a no-touch rule, ie. if bar patrons of the same sex so much as touched, let alone kissed, each other they were ejected. A bunch of us, straight and gay, packed the bar one night and held a public, very wet “kiss-in” to protest the no-touch policy of the bar. We had a ball.

“We ignored the waiters’ demands to stop. Management called the police. My favourite recollection of the kiss-in was the reaction of the young police officers who walked into the bar and then walked out again as soon as they could, looking acutely embarrassed and arresting no one.

We only called it quits when the waiters started to beat on people. Then, as a group, we left, drunk and happy.”

The Castle closed in 1990 and the building was demolished immediately thereafter. The location would later see a Salad Loop franchise and The Royal Canadian Mint Store.

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