Shuttered restaurants, a vanishing working-class culture - and a remembrance of things past
I remember that place.
I have lived in Vancouver for a long time now. Part of this loss of working-class life is the loss of music venue, too. Here, we have recently lost two significant ones: The Patricia Hotel/Hasting Street Brewery... aka The Pat, where Jelly Roll Morton lived 1918-21. I moved into the Strathcona neighbourhood 5 years ago, in part to enjoy the Monday night and Saturday afternoon jazz.
But 1.5 years ago the provinicial gov't purchased it to home some of the tent-city folks who'd spent the year living across the street from me, in Strathcona Park, along with a number of other very working-class hotels. (The Patricia had a rep for being clean and cheap, for those who cannot afford to stay in more pricey places. We now have NO hotels in this city that can be described as such. People living on low budgets cannot travel. And the working-poor are paying for the very poor.)
Another huge loss is the Railway Club, on Dunsmuir Street. In the 80s I was a regular at this live-music venue, and at Christmas time, my aunt would sit and share her stories of dancing in the same place, with the same model rail-train running around the ceiling so many hears before... It's been around for so very long. It's been a place to discover the best of the province's craft beers. A place for a decently priced lunch. A place to spend rainy winter afternoons listening to blues jams, and the new country of old punks... I'm devastated that it's gone.
The only places to hear jazz now in this city are very pricey. Oh the horrific irony: the most broke musicians play in the places where other musicians cannot afford to see them!!
I need to say that Guilt &Co. in Gastown is a great place... There are still a few. But these two are truly "working class," and not replaceable.
Is anyone listening...
Thank you for this post, Tara.
Beautiful, painful, deeply resonating. Moved me as few things have for some time. I've never been to that restaurant, but grew up with others in other places. Thanks, Tara, for writing about what truly matters.
What a lovely tribute to a place and time that no longer exist. Thank you for this piece. Losing places we spent years of our formative years indeed feels like a death of a friend. It’s also interesting how the perception of time is different when we were younger. A year in our youth feels like a decade in adulthood. I may have only worked at Roots for a year but it feels longer than the 20 years I’ve worked in PR now.
Great piece. This was a special restaurant. Crayons in glasses and drawing on placemats since before I can remember!
I get something here that i don't with my other substack subs... Canada still has something to offer.
You are a great writer, Tara. So moved by this story! Thanks for sharing.
One of your best posts ever.
What a beautiful, poignant piece, especially about the Topanga……a restaurant that I know well. Picture a bright-eyed, three year girl with her parents in the late 70’s, avidly colouring in one of the post-card pictures that covered the walls until the restaurant’s destruction by fire several years ago now…with Tom at the till handling the bills, as he did in those days, positioned at the corner of the L-shaped counter that jutted out, the kitchen visible behind…..the aroma of Mexican food and the happy chatter of the counter-cultural customers of the day filling the air. Maybe one of those postcards was coloured in by the author.
Things always change, and you can never go home again.
I too came of age working in a restaurant (although not nearly in such a cool place as Vancouver). So much of what you describe resonates and is giving me pause for chewy reflection this morning. In many ways it was one of the best starts to career I could have had.