A no messing around guide to the coolest things to eat, drink and do in Vancouver and beyond. Community. Not clickbait.

YOU SHOULD KNOW: How The Penthouse Nightclub Became An X-Rated Local Icon

When you find yourself stuffed in a room elbow-to-elbow with Randy Rampage of D.O.A., Nardwuar, and women in feather headdresses, you know you’re in the right place. I certainly was, when I recently had the pleasure of attending the book launch for Liquor, Lust, and the Law. The work is an informative, passionate history of the Penthouse’s rise to stardom in Vancouver’s nightclub scene. While the launch party boasted a larger-than-life atmosphere with big band music, plenty of drinks, and even a teary-eyed speech from owner Danny Filippone, the star of the show that night was truly the establishment’s history. Rightfully so, for the Penthouse’s status as a historical landmark, complete with its own Heritage Vancouver tours, preceded the night’s celebrations, with the new publication capping off a long list of historical recognitions.

The first book to be published on the Penthouse, penned by local writer and musician Aaron Chapman, provides an additionally detailed account of the Filippone family, whose patriarch Giuseppe purchased the lot at 1019 Seymour Street in the early 1940s.

Initially operated as Eagle Time Delivery Systems and Diamond Cabs, and later Eagle Time Athletics, the space eventually transformed into an after-hours hotspot catering to those disenchanted with the lackluster Vancouver nightlife. Prohibition-era raids, bottle-club shenanigans, and true tales of celebrity encounters (including a curious story of Louis Armstrong cooking spaghetti) are but a few of the topics discussed in this unique retrospective.

Besides the infamous legacy of the Penthouse’s legal woes and Joe Philippone’s 1983 murder, there are plenty other exciting elements of the club’s history worth exploring, and Chapman does an excellent job demonstrating the inextricable relationship between the notorious establishment and the family that poured their heart and soul into it. There’s plenty of stories to tell: how Joe Filippone welcomed African American entertainers in a time where most venues (like the Hotel Vancouver) wouldn’t; how an incredible list of patrons, including Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and even Led Zeppelin cemented the Penthouse as a heavyweight in the cabaret scene of the 1940s through the 1970s; and just how many cabinet ministers enjoyed the exotic dancers and Vegas-style entertainment…

The club’s notorious troubles in the 1970’s, including vice squad appearances and prostitution charges, present insight into Vancouver’s late mid-century sex-trade industry, pieced together through suggestions of police misconduct and personal reflections by the Filippones. The evolution from “hooker heaven” to a reputable establishment in the 1980s – a metamorphosis that included the introduction of “Family Days” at the club – showcases the Filippone’s efforts to create a positive institution for the city. It becomes clear through the musings of Chapman and the memories of its founders and patrons that the Penthouse has always been a family affair, with a story of dedication and civic pride that ultimately outshines even the most scandalous facets of the club’s history.

Liquor, Lust, and the Law: The Story of Vancouver’s Legendary Penthouse Nightclub is available from Arsenal Pulp Press.


There are 5 comments

  1. What a great short article that sums up the Penthouse perfectly – I like the never before seen (by me), photograph of Frankie Laine. Thank you.
    Penny Crowe (Danny’s Mum)

  2. […] Written by Aaron Chapman and published by the wonderful Vancouver publisher Arsenal Press – Liquor, Lust & the Law has stormed into the BC bestsellers list in time for the Christmas rush. The book’s had rave reviews in the Province, the Tyee, the Vancouver Sun, the Courier, and been featured on the Rock 101 Bro Jake show, CKNW, and in Scout Magazine. […]

  3. My Dad is 90 years old and he was telling me the story of him working for Joe Philiponi. My Dad worked for Eagle Time Delivery System Co. Ltd. about 1935-37. He delivered news from the Vancouver Sun to Radio Station CJOR. Dad remembered the address and the phone number. Also, he said that Diamond Taxi Cabs was in the same building. I have just been looking up different things on line to find out more information, about 1033 Seymour St.

  4. Hello there….

    My name is Alan Jones…..my fathers name was Art Jones…..and I’ve yet to see my fathers name mentioned in any articles. He was a friend of the Filippone family and was responsible for the large expansion of the Club in the 70’s. Originally the club was only half the size it is now; but due to an amazing engineering feat my father expanded the club and should be considered responsible for the success it has had since then.

    Cheers…..Alan Jones

Vancouver’s History of Independent Grocery Stores, Vol. 10

Discover one of what used to be many Victoria Drive Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood grocery stores: A & B Grocery.

Groundbreaking Eleanor Collins, The City’s ‘First Lady Of Jazz’

Eleanor Collins, celebrated as "Vancouver's first lady of jazz" and recipient of the Order of Canada, passed away on March 3, 2024, at the age of 104. In tribute to her legacy and to extend our condolences to her family, we are republishing Christine Hagemoen's 2017 article that explores Collins' profound impact on Vancouver's music scene.

Vancouver’s History of Independent Grocery Stores, Vol. 9

In her latest instalment, Christine Hagemoen details the progression of Kong’s Grocery in Strathcona.

Kingsgate, the ‘Little Mall That Could’, Turns 50!

A brief history of one of the last remnants of Mount Pleasant’s working-class origins, still standing as an oasis of resistance to the neighbourhood's gentrification.