Veteran restaurateur Sean Heather (Irish Heather, Salt Tasting Room) has secured the old trading floor of the newly refreshed Vancouver Stock Exchange building at Pender & Howe. With it, he aims to launch a new restaurant and bar called Open Outcry.
Heather and I met yesterday afternoon in Gastown to discuss the project slated for the foot of “The Exchange” building. Credit Suisse’s new $200+ million, LEED Platinum construction by ‘starchitect’ Harry Gugger towers over the original footprint at 475 Howe St. and comes loaded with 32 floors of potential clients (including guests of the Exchange Hotel and 5 floors of Amazon workers).
Heather was understandably excited about the endeavour, not least because he will be working – for the first time – with Ste. Marie Art + Design and Glasfurd & Walker, the design collaboration that has given us beautiful, award-winning spaces like St. Lawrence, Kissa Tanto, Pidgin and Savio Volpe. He’s also not a little thrilled to return to the more theatrical side of hospitality, talking excitedly of service trolleys, jacketed staff, and a wholly transportive environment — really the milieu he was immersed in back when he got his start in the trade at London’s famed Maxim’s de Paris (a Jazz Age spectacle of excess if ever there was one, and where a young Gordon Ramsay toiled as Chef de Partie).
It sounds like he’s really going for it, too. Open Outcry – named after the style of coded gesticulations and yelling by the traders who once worked the Stock Exchange floor – will see service trolleys for tableside dishes and cocktails, jackets and service badges for the front-of-house team, high ceilings, murals, caviar, club sandwiches, et cetera.
Such theatricality feels fitting for the address, which was home to a Vaudeville theatre before the VSE arrived in 1929, just months before the start of the Great Depression. A bit of Vaudeville stayed long after, too, as the Stock Exchange was apparently laughably corrupt — Forbes magazine famously calling it the “scam capital of the world”.
These aspects – Vaudeville and the always battling bull and bear markets of the mid-20th century – are being worked into the design. It should prove a fruitful intersection of aesthetics — lots to work with there! Though the old bones of the Stock Exchange have been largely wiped away (it closed in 1981, moving to 609 Granville Street), I understand that lots of its character remains and the new tenants will use old photos to bring back some of its original magic, including the trader’s mezzanine catwalk. I’ve seen some renderings and mood boards. It’s going to be special.
Of course it’s very early (the exterior hoarding goes up this morning). I haven’t seen inside the space yet, but I’m told the 2,000 sqft restaurant and bar will have 20 seats on the mezzanine, 60 on the old trading floor, and another 8 at the bar. It will have its own entrance on Pender Street and another in the lobby. Opening day should be at some point this summer. I’m crossing my fingers for July.
– All photos/images supplied –