Legendary blues bar will likely get a new format from new owner
Reblogged from John Mackie, The Vancouver Sun
The Yale Hotel has billed itself as “Vancouver’s home of rhythm and blues” for three decades.
No more. The legendary blues bar at 1300 Granville Street is up for sale (asking price $4.4 million), and when it reopens, will likely have a different format.
It is also available for lease, at $45 per square foot.
The Yale has been closed since November 2012 for a heritage restoration that is being done as part of the neighbouring Rolston condo development.
The 270-seat bar is on the main floor of an historic building that was built in 1888, when the City of Vancouver was just two years old. The Yale’s red brick façade, mansard roof and neon signs make it one of Vancouver’s most distinctive buildings.
Yale owner Waide Luciak had been planning to reopen as a blues club, but live music venues don’t make the money they used to. He owns another live music venue on Granville, Vancouver Fanclub, and has decided to let somebody else run the Yale.
“We’re not going to go ahead and redo the Yale ourselves,” said Luciak, who has owned the bar since 1987.
“Whoever rents it (or buys it) will still have to put (money) into the tenant improvements, so I’m going to tell them what they have to do. They’re going to get in there and do whatever is the best economic decision today for their dollar. If I tried to limit (the format) to the blues, it’s never going to get done.”
The heritage restoration was extensive.
“Basically, everything inside (has been redone) — all the plumbing, heating, all the guts of the building have been totally replaced,” said Luciak.
“They shored up all sorts of corners in the building with concrete pillars because there was certain structural failure in places.”
The building is now a strata, with the top two floors owned by the city and the main floor and basement owned by Luciak. The city will rent out 43 renovated SRO units on the upper floors to people with low incomes.
The heritage reno was budgeted at $5 million. Luciak said whoever buys or rents the Yale will probably have to put in another $1 million in improvements — the 5,000-sq.-ft. main floor and 2,500-sq.-ft. basement are basically now just big open spaces. If someone leases the entire space, the monthly rent would be about $28,000.
Realtor Mario Negris of CBRE is marketing the property, and expects it to attract a lot of interest.
“It’s obviously a very well-known historic venue,” said Negris. “(And) it’s on a great corner.
“There are a number of entertainment groups that are out looking right now, so I think we’ll get pretty good traction on it. The visibility is outstanding. It’s a real storied venue in the city.
“The building’s been completely renovated, so it looks great, it’s all up to code. It’s easier to lease or sell now than it was before the renovation.”
The Yale was originally called The Colonial, and cost $9,000 to build in 1888. It was designed by Noble Stonestreet Hoffar, a prominent early architect who also designed the Cordova Street side of the Army and Navy department store.
When it was built, The Colonial was out in the sticks: Vancouver was centred in Gastown. The Canadian Pacific Railway was developing rail yards nearby in Yaletown, and The Colonial catered to CPR workers.
In 1907, new owners changed the name to the Yale, and two years later tacked on an addition at the back. The bar is extended over both buildings — you can tell where the buildings meet because there is a slight dip in the floor.
The blues format was introduced in 1984 by Sam Sorich, and retained when Luciak purchased the bar three years later. Over the years, a who’s who of local and international blues musicians have played there, including John Lee Hooker, Clarence (Gatemouth) Brown, Charlie Musselwhite, Otis Rush, Lowell Fulson, Pinetop Perkins, Johnny Winter, John Hammond, James Cotton, Charles Brown, Jeff Healey, Colin James, and Jim Byrnes.
“I can remember when Powder Blues would be on the stage, John Candy would come walking up with Miss Canada on his arm,” recounts Luciak. “They’d get up on stage, jamming away all night, just having a good old time at the Yale.”
But the live music scene isn’t what it was in the 1980s.
“We’ve got a great music scene here,” said Luciak. “The problem is, we don’t have an awful lot of audience.”