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…


Smoke Break #866: Scientists Believe Magic Mushrooms Key To Our Evolution From Apes

Oh, wait…they don’t? Clearly they haven’t watched this…(via TDW)


Smoke Break #861: A Stunning Portrait Of India Revealed In A French Romp On Wheels

Videographer Guilhem Machenaud cruises through Bangalore, Jaipur, New Delhi and Agra with a few French riders and returns with some jaw-droppingly beautiful footage set to a wonderfully hypnotic soundtrack. Press play to improve your day…

Post-Riot Therapy: 101 Greatest Things About Life In Vancouver

by Andrew Morrison | Ever since the post-game riot nearly two weeks ago and penning my admittedly angry, totally knee jerk reaction to it (amplified in fury 10-fold by my hockey team losing the Stanley Cup), I’ve wanted to be reminded of all the things that make Vancouver worth getting into such a tizzy over in the first place.

It’s not like I forgot, but it feels good to write them down.

I’m over the loss of Game 7 (total lie), but anger nevertheless lingers at the jackasses who posed for photos on burning cop cars, beat down innocents and otherwise abused the name and reputation of this city.

Still, it’s time to move on.

It was in that spirit that my wife and I sat down with a bottle of wine after the kids went to sleep the other night and began trading our favourite things to do, see, eat, drink and be a part of in Vancouver.

We left out most of the glossy brochure fluff – the healthy walks along the seawall, the abundance of yoga studios, the vibrant multi-culturalism and so on (all great things, sure) – and narrowed down what started as a massive list to just 101 things that we could agree on.

Naturally, what follows reflects our own interests, work and personal affections (notice the heavy food component), so it’s doubtful that you’ll hold dear the exact same things. To some, our list might seem bourgeois, blinkered or bullshit, and that’s fine. These are the best things that we get out of our city, and we feel no shame in the way we fashion our good times.

So without further et cetera…

Scout’s 101 Greatest Things About Life In Vancouver

1 | The Nine O’Clock Gun

We might as well start off with a bang! It’s 9 o’clock! So sayeth Stanley Park’s 9′oclock gun:

It’s been hit by lightning, plugged with rocks, short-circuited, silenced by work stoppages and even (briefly) stolen but Vancouver’s famed old Nine O’Clock Gun has—as faithfully as circumstances have allowed—boomed out the time of day from its home in Stanley Park for 107 years now.

What other city in Canada shoots off a canon to tell you with a resounding note of insistence that it’s time to go out and have some fun?

2 | Laneway Housing

For a long time, Vancouver home owners weren’t allowed laneway housing to help pay their mortgages through renters, house aging grandparents or cloister their wayward teens thereby increasing the city’s population density. That changed in the summer of 2009 when City Council approved 70,000 properties for laneway development, thanks in no small part to the lobbying (and awesomeness) of a couple of cool and conscientious little companies that are doing it right. Honour is due.

3 | Tuesday Nights At The VAG

The Vancouver Art Gallery is free (er, by donation) on Tuesday nights. Bring a twoonie and take advantage.

4 | Bike Lanes

Hooray for not getting hit by cars (as much) anymore!

5 | Sunday Soccer at McLean Park

A diverse group of people of every age and background show up at McLean Park in Strathcona every Sunday afternoon to play a legendary – if totally casual – game of footie without nets, refs, corners, throw-ins,  rules or clocks. What if it rains or snows? Big deal. Game on. Come and play! (Don’t worry about the old Korean man looking terrified above. That’s just Kip. He’s a power forward, always lurking on the wing) Read more

The Hotly Anticipated “Save On Meats” Opens Today In Gastown

Michelle took these shots at the first “friends and family” dinner service at the highly anticipated Save On Meats last night (since forever referred to colloquially as “Save On”).

The venerated, salt-of-the-earth restaurant at 43 West Hastings has taken over a year to resurrect itself under new stewardship, this after 50 years spent serving honest, prepped-in-house diner fare to every stripe of Vancouverite.

Scout broke the news of its coming with Mark Brand at the helm over a year ago and took many shots during the construction phase. Because of the building’s history and our memories of the original Save On, we’ve been especially keen. We’re thrilled to the wait come to an end. Brand – who has the lease for 20 years – assures me it’ll open to the public in 12 hours from now – that’s at noon, Wednesday, June 22nd – come “hell or high water.”

A lot of people had a hand in this project and worked very hard on it (Nico, Guy, Rodney, Jason et al, take a bow). I imagine it will be fixed as an unforgettable experience for all who dedicated their and sweat time to it. From the look of these shots, their hard toil has paid off. The photos reveal their superb job at improving on a Vancouver legend without diminishing its working class spirit and feel. And the prices on the draft menu are pretty sweet, too (nevermind the spelling, it’s just a draft). We’ll leave it at that and the imagery, without captions. The rest is to your imaginations as we fully expect that you’d like to check it out for yourselves.

We’re hardly impartial on this one. Welcome back, Save On. We hope you kill it.


Awesome Thing We Ate #838: Honest Diner Feast At Hastings’ Imminent Save On Meats

Save On Meats | 43 West Hastings | Opening Imminent | More tonight


Smoke Break #854: Samuel L. Jackson Does “Go The F@ck To Sleep” Audiobook

The much ballyhooed NSFW children’s book, Go The Fuck To Sleep, has finally got its official audiobook companion, and of course they’ve chosen the most appropriate narrator possible in Samuel L. Jackson. If you have kids, you’re going to dig this…


Happy 90th Anniversary To The Greedy Freaks At The BC Liquor Distribution Branch

The following just arrived in my inbox from the good folks at If the text had a body, I’d give it a hug:

It is the 90th anniversary and the government monopoly Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) still controls and sells all liquor within BC at the wholesale level and still sells a vast amount through its government retail stores which have extremely high operating costs. The LDB is a $3 billion per year business in B.C. It generates about $900 million per year for the government but costs about $300 million per year to operate.

The following are some of the legacies of prohibition which make BC look ridiculous when compared to the rest of the world:

- Today, all liquor sold within BC must be registered and listed with the government. All imports of liquor must be approved by and processed through the government wholesaler. Yet, we don’t do this for cigarettes or guns.

- Today in BC, and unlike most of the rest of the world, it is still illegal to consume alcohol in a public place such as a park. BC citizens cannot legally enjoy a glass of wine while enjoying a picnic.

- It is still illegal to carry liquor across provincial borders (a criminal offence with possible imprisonment). In Europe, you can ship alcohol between countries without a problem. While Canadians cannot legally return from a vacation in another province with any alcohol, they can bring back 2 bottles per person after a trip to another country.

- We have excessively high taxes on liquor which result in prices being about double what they should be. For example, Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling, a Washington state wine, is commonly available for $6 south of the border. It is $15.99 in BC because the standard LDB markup on wine is 123% plus 12% HST on top of that for a grand total of 135% tax.

- Wine is good for you when used in moderation as intended. No amount of soda pop is good for you but that is taxed at only 12%.

- We have arcane regulation of restaurants and private retailers such that these independent businesses are not permitted to do things which are otherwise commonplace. For example, they cannot store liquor off-site. They cannot transfer liquor between locations of the same restaurant or retail chain (even if the LDB is out of stock). They must buy nearly all their liquor from the government, usually from a single designated government store. If they order anything other than mainstream products, they are forced to order in full case lots via a slow and inefficient delivery system. As a result, restaurants frequently run out of products or encounter storage and financial issues due to the requirement to order in such large quantities.

- Restaurants and bars are denied wholesale prices entirely. Private retailers are given wholesale prices which are fixed artificially high by their chief competitor (the government stores). As a result, there is virtually no competition in the retail liquor business and consumers are denied the sales and good deals that are common in other countries.

- It is illegal for a private person to sell a bottle of liquor to another private person. Auctions are also illegal (unless done for charity).

- Citizens cannot take their own wine into a restaurant and have the restaurant charge them a corkage fee (even if the wine was purchased from a government store). This is illegal – it’s considered to be “illicit liquor”.

Happy Anniversary LDB, but don’t expect the rest of British Columbia to be joining you to celebrate the 90th birthday of the establishment of government control over the sale of liquor within the province.

PS. You suck.

Foreign Intelligence Brief #370: Cyber-Group “Anonymous” Warns Off Imperious NATO

The Atlantic Council has posted a letter addressed to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) from government hypocrisy cop/hacktivist group Anonymous:

It has come to our attention that a NATO draft report has classified Anonymous a potential “threat to member states’ security,” and that you seek retaliation against us.

It is true that Anonymous has committed what you would call ‘cyber-attacks’ in protest against several military contractors, companies, lawmakers, and governments, and has continuously sought to fight against threats to our freedoms on the Internet. And since you consider state control of the Internet to be in the best interest of the various nations of your military alliance, you therefore consider us a potential threat to international security.

So we would like to make it clear that we, in reality, pose no threat to the people of your nations. Anonymous is not a reckless swarm attacking the websites of governments and companies out of hatred or spite. We fight for freedom. For ourselves, and the people of the world, we seek to preserve the liberty granted to the millions of people who have found it on the Internet. . . .

Anonymous is not simply “a group of super hackers.” Anonymous is the embodiment of freedom on the web. We exist as a result of the Internet, and humanity itself. This frightens you. It only seems natural that it would. Governments, corporations, and militaries know how to control individuals. It frustrates you that you do not control us. We have moved to a world where our freedom is in our own hands. We owe you nothing for it. We stand for freedom for every person around the world. You stand in our way. . . .

So come at me bro. You can retaliate against us in any manner you choose. Lock down the web. Throw us in prison. Take it all away from us. Anonymous will live on.

(Italics mine) I’m not one for black trench coats or anarchic manifestos (nor sixteen sided dice), but that last para is pretty rad.

Smoke Break #853: Drunk Theatre Outcast In UK Shows Staggering Gymnastic Prowess

After falling down in front of Sir Ian McKellan and Liam Neeson, a severely intoxicated thespian at a theatre awards show inside London’s super posh Savoy Hotel was tossed out and left to navigate the 2am streets alone. A series of CCTV cameras captured the parade of folly that followed. The full flip to faceplant over the handrail at 1:29 is most impressive. Oh, drama. You’re so serving it wrong.sho

Smoke Break #852: So How’s That “War On Drugs” Doing? Not So Good…But That’s OK

The Global Commission on Drug Policy has released a pretty darn damning report that says the “War On Drugs” has failed (despite it being occasionally hilarious). The 19-member panel included former leaders of major drug war front-line states like Mexico and Colombia, as well as global bigwig pragmatists like former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and billionaire Sir Richard Branson. As if on cue, the governments of the USA and Mexico called the findings “misguided”, probably because the status quo is clearly working out so well. The report comes on the heels of the re-election of Stephen Harper, who got so high at the victory party that he still plans on moving forward with legislation that will bring in longer sentences for drug crimes (including for the possession of just a couple of pot plants at home). Why? Because if it ain’t fixed, break it some more!


Field Trip #585: Diggin’ Guerilla Archaeology In Vancouver…

Me and a friend took our sons out for a dig and pretzels today somewhere in the recess of our neighbourhood. The only archaeology I’d done before was at the bottom of an old well while I was a foreign student some 15 years ago, back when I thought Indiana Jones’ career was something easily replicated (still not entirely convinced to the contrary).

I remember being not all that amazed by the finds at the time, as the cat and rat skeletons, broken plates, rags and knives discovered during that school dig weren’t things that I could viscerally connect to. My fellow students could put them in a more personal context because they were “of that place”. I was not. I was born in Vancouver, and naturally find the short sweep of its modern history to be profoundly more interesting than that of most other places I’ve ever been to.

I should stress that this isn’t “real” archaeology. We’re not going meters down and hunting for evidence of aboriginal life thousands or hundreds of years ago. We’re looking for old bottle caps and rubbish on and just below the surface to get our kids excited about the past. Without training, geophysical surveys or documents leading to a proverbial “x” (we’ll leave such things to the pros digging real archaeological sites), one simply marks a spot and digs a small, inoffensive hole a few inches deep.

At our spot – an old dump – today, we brought up plenty of cool finds dating from the Victorian to the 1960′s. We found an over-abundance of old glass (including an intact bottle buried in mud) and just as much shattered ceramic of many different types. There were also butchered bones galore, and bits of metal that included an iron skeleton key and an old copper latch hook (amazingly, the only plastic we found was on the surface).

Here are a few shots of the day and of the finds my son and I categorised afterwards at home … Read more

Vancouver Would Be Cooler If… We Had The “Grillenium Falcon” Rolling Around Town

I was going to go into Tashi station to pick up some power converters when this shot landed in my inbox. The Grillenium Falcon just landed in Fayetteville, Arkansas. So jealous. May the lunch be with you.

Local Intelligence Brief #729: “Great Cities Are About Street-Level Experiences”

Don Cayo penned an opinion piece in the Sun today on how Vancouver “coasts on its beauty, but misses out on creating vibrant city life”. The meat of it focuses a little too much on business as if more retails stores and restaurants along the waterfront were the keys to cultural ascension for my liking (it’s all the stupid by-laws and red tape), but he pulls out some good quotes just the same:

Vancouver coasts on its natural assets, too rarely learning from other cities that do more with less, says Michael Goldberg, a professor emeritus at University of B.C.’s Sauder School of Business and an outspoken critic of urban planning and development.

“Great cities are about street-level experiences,” he told me over the lunch the other day at a table near the window of a pleasant little eatery, a spot I chose because there was no functioning outdoor patio this time of year on this section of busy Robson Street.

“But we [in Vancouver] rely excessively on being beautiful and being next to nature. All our planning tends to focus outward toward the views, and there has been no attention to the street-level experience for people.

Read the whole bit here. Vancouver’s relative sterility is hardly breaking news, but it’s nice to see our local paper pause its groan-worthy cheerleading for just long enough to echo what everybody already knows, that our city would be so much better if we just arrested all the No Fun nabobs and sent them packing to gulags in rural Ontario.

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