Vancouver’s Railway Club closes
– by Shawn Conner
A message on the Railway Club’s Facebook page says that the venerable Vancouver live music institution has closed.
The post reads, “The Owners and Management of the Railway Club are sorry to announce the closure of the business, effective immediately. We would like to thank our wonderful employees, customers, promoters, suppliers, and especially the performers that have made the Railway Club much more than just a business these many years. A concerted and very public effort to sell the club over the last few months has seen no buyer come forward. Unfortunately, the long-term and persistent combination of relatively high expenses, in particular rent, as compared to business receipts has left the business unable to continue. We deeply regret this outcome and the effect it will have on all the stakeholders, as well the cultural scene in Vancouver. Regretfully, the city has lost music venues and nightclubs over the past couple of years and we hope this trend will see a reversal. Again, our thanks to everyone who at one time or another climbed the steep stairs up to the Railway Club; we wish the best going forward to all those affected.”
According to Fatimah Yasin in a 2012 article about the Railway Club, the bar had “been in business since New Year’s Eve in 1931, when it was called the Railwaymen’s Club. It was opened by railway construction workers who formed their own club in reaction to being refused entry to the railway Engineers’ Club on Powell Street. To counter their prohibition, the construction workers made it so that there were ‘no engineers allowed’.”
Although many might argue that the venue’s golden age, when it played host to then-burgeoning acts such as Blue Rodeo, Sarah McLachlan, Spirit of the West, the Tragically Hip, The Blue Shadows, Los Lobos, and k.d. lang, is long past, the loss of the Railway Club is a blow to the city’s music scene. Over the years the Railway has supported local bands and musicians by welcoming emerging acts as well as hosting CiTR’s Shindig! local band competition.
Reaction to the announcement has been one of disappointment. Local journalist Tom Zillich commented, “Saw Radiohead, Tragically Hip and many others on the stage there in the 90s. Sad to hear of the Rail’s closure.” Jason Zakrisson wrote, “It’s where I met my wife, 18 years ago.” Jason Toal asked, “What will happen to the train?” – i.e., the train that followed tracks attached to the bar’s ceiling.
The end of the Railway Club follows the demise of other Vancouver venues devoted to live music such as the Town Pump, the Starfish Room, and Richard’s on Richards.
You can read our piece about the history of the club here.