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Historic venue The Yale Saloon reopens with a country twist

Friday 12th, February 2016 / 09:28
By Joshua Erickson
Matt Gibbons aims to turn The Yale Saloon into a cultural hub for Vancouverites from all walks of life. Photo: Sarah Whitlam

Matt Gibbons aims to turn The Yale Saloon into a cultural hub for Vancouverites from all walks of life.
Photo: Sarah Whitlam

VANCOUVER — Vancouver’s legendary and storied Yale Hotel has undergone a facelift and is looking to bring life back into the revered venue. Originally built in 1889 as a Canadian Railroad bunkhouse, the space eventually turned into a hotel and became the home of the famous blues club. Over the years the venue hosted such acts as Canned Heat, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Page, and more. However, as the years rolled on, The Yale’s audiences dwindled and eventually the venue shut down in 2012, with its future uncertain.

Enter Matt Gibbons and MRG Concerts. MRG purchased the venue in 2014, and under their management has been rebranded The Yale Saloon—a country, blues, and BBQ establishment. Currently owning and operating The Vogue Theatre and The Biltmore Cabaret, The Yale Saloon brings a distinct flavour to MRG’s presence in Vancouver—one Gibbons is very excited about.

The Yale Saloon's mechanical bull patiently waits for its next rider... Photo: Sarah Whitlam

The Yale Saloon’s mechanical bull patiently waits for the next rider…
Photo: Sarah Whitlam

“What excites me most about The Yale Saloon, is its potential as a cultural hub for the arts scene. A micro-Austin…Somewhere to have a community built in,” Gibbons explains. “I think that’s what Vancouver needs—more people propping each other up, so that we can become a city the provides more experiences.”

Of course, when an old, beloved venue gets taken over by new management there are plenty of skeptics. Gibbons is well aware of this fact, but remains undaunted. He faced it when he took over The Vogue and The Biltmore. Ultimately, Gibbons has aimed to retain the same spirit, but update it for a modern, fun clientele.

“What is The Yale? A place for having a great time. That’s what it was and what it still is now,” says Gibbons. “But I think the business model of The Yale was broken. Times change and things happen, but the doesn’t mean the idea of what The Yale is, is broken. It just means that it needed to be updated for the current landscape that we’re in.”

...and one rises up to the challenge. Yee-hah! Photo: Sarah Whitlam

…and one rises up to the challenge. Yee-hah!
Photo: Sarah Whitlam

The Yale will play host to many weekly events including a dedicated blues night every Tuesday, to honour The Yale Hotel; Gibbons is excited to keep the focus “very local heavy,” and hopes to give plenty of Vancouver musicians exposure to new audiences. Essentially, The Yale Saloon is looking to combine experiences of people looking to hang out, party, and/or eat some ribs, with people looking to experience great live music.

In his final remarks, Gibbons sums it up best. “We are a place where you can come for a full night experience. You come for dinner, you watch a band, you dance. And there is zero pretension in what we do.”

The Yale Saloon is now open at 1300 Granville St.

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