A Sneak Peek Inside ‘Open Outcry’

Sean Heather’s highly anticipated, 120 seat Open Outcry is on track to launch later this week in the heart of Vancouver’s old Financial District at 811 West Pender Street.

I slipped in during staff training this past weekend and found the upcoming restaurant and bar nearly finished. It looked better than I had let my best hopes imagine. From its bespoke light fixtures and massive mural by Jeff Burgess (immortalizing past and present icons of local finance) to its sidewalk prism ceiling section (where you can see feet pounding the pavement above) and airline food service carts converted to tableside cocktail trolleys, it appears to have all the makings of a special, one-of-a-kind experience.

Located on the old trading floor of the newly refreshed Vancouver Stock Exchange building, this was a space that was crying out for resurrection and we are lucky that it was earmarked for a food and beverage operation instead of a nail salon.

If this is the first time you’re hearing about Open Outcry, here’s some backstory from when Scout broke the news of its coming last winter:

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.

Honour is due to Ste. Marie Art + Design and Glasfurd & Walker, who have once again combined their creative energies in the service of something special that goes well beyond the ordinary. I don’t presume to know what the daily denizens of the Financial District like in food and beverage, but I’d wager the look and feel of Open Outcry – which opens to the public this Thursday – will lure them once they’ve clocked out and loosened up. (Open 4pm to midnight to start. Lunches will begin in a few weeks.)

I still haven’t seen the menu. The small kitchen was built around it for efficiency’s sake, so I expect more easy to execute snacks and shareables than a deep selection of large mains. I foresee Open Outcry as being more of a place to hang out and unwind with chums rather than a spot to formally dine. Though the aesthetic might put it near the design family of Old School Steakhouse or Cigar Bar, it’s a completely different beast. Think Multnomah Whisky Library in Portland. If it were a club I’d happily pay dues.

As for the cocktail trolley action, that’s the province of talented and experienced bar manager Max Borrowman, who was training his people when I showed up. (Some were wearing their custom pit jackets, just like the stock traders of old). It’s my understanding that they will mix five drinks from the cocktail list tableside, which should provide near constant and cool action during peak times.

This is what I saw…

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There is 1 comment

  1. I am really torn about this place. First off, it looks very cool.

    Second, some of the choices of people in the mural are shall we say “interesting” ( Mr. Aquilini for instance)

    Third, I’d like to hear Sean Orr’s thoughts…….

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