One Hundred Years Ago, This Was Vancouver’s Most Elegant Cocktail Bar

The Strand Hotel Bar – 1908 | CoV Archive | AM54-S4-: Hot P86

The ever-evolving Restaurant Graveyard series looks back at the countless, long-shuttered establishments that helped to propel Vancouver’s food and drink forward. Full A-Z with maps and photos here. May they never be forgotten!

For a few decades before the advent of ruinous Prohibition, the bar at Vancouver’s long gone Strand Hotel was – since its launch in 1889 – a magnet to the emerging city’s well-heeled ship owners and brokers. It was the place to see and be seen, to be well-served and thus transported back to the posh clubs and cafes of London. According to Michael Kluckner’s Vancouver, The Way it Was (1984, Whitecap), The Strand’s head barman, Doc, “had the suave manners of a diplomat” and the lunch counter was tended by a Maori import named John Bluntish, who treated his guests like children. The establishment went out in a “blaze of glory” on the night before Prohibition began. Kluckner writes:

In the dying wet hours, there was no way to get close to the bar. The supply of beer ran out, and the bartenders served only straight drinks “and had no time for the usual persiflage.” The Strand set an all-time record for bar receipts, even though some patrons, as closing time approached, wasted precious moments singing ‘Sweet Adeline’.

The hotel and the remnants of its famous bar would be remodelled in 1939 and ultimately demolished in 1951 for the Canadian Bank of Commerce’s regional office building expansion.

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