By Graeme Wiggins
VANCOUVER – As any Vancouverite who’s spent any time in other cities can attest, Vancouver’s nightlife is pretty limited. Sure, you’ve got ample amounts of perfectly acceptable tap houses and pubs. There’s a good selection of places to go for fancy cocktails or if you want to go dancing. What it’s lacking, though, is variety. With Back and Forth Bar, Vancouver’s first Ping-Pong bar, owner Regan Truong plans on changing that.
Having spent the bulk of last year in Toronto opening the Donnelly Group’s eastern foray, Belfast Love, he came back to Vancouver and, inspired by the diversity of the Toronto nightlife, went to work bringing something new to the Vancouver scene. As he explains, “It’s a different scene out there. It’s got a lot going on, arts- and culture-wise. The bar scene is a bit different. And I came across this Ping-Pong bar called Spin. We all went there, played Ping-Pong and had beers, and thought it was the coolest thing ever. Susan Sarandon started it up.”
That inspiration led to Back and Forth, which initially was just planned as purely a Ping-Pong bar, but slowly expanded to include some vintage video games and a host of board games, all playable in the cafeteria-style communal seating area. “It evolved over time. I initially wanted to just do a Ping-Pong bar and then my friends were like, ‘Why don’t you do games,’ so I bought some board games. Then one of my friends mentioned videogames. There’s a popular video-game bar in Toronto and they play Mario Kart there. So it’s just an unpretentious place to drink beer and play games.”
Part of his efforts of keeping things casual involves keeping the prices affordable. “All the highballs are five bucks and under plus tax; all my beer sleeves are five bucks plus tax, $5.75 with tax. I’m trying to make it affordable and fun.” And while he has a good selection of beer on tap (Twin Sales, Parkside, Phillips, Parallel 49, Fuggles, Strathcona) don’t expect much in the way of food, as he hasn’t rented the kitchen as of yet, so offerings are limited to Chef Boyardee, noodles in a cup, chips, and Pizza Pops.
Unpretentious is really the key word. With decor seemingly inspired by your family rec room, and a playlist of nostalgic rap hits on the system, it’s catering to a crowd that seems underserved in Vancouver at the moment – those who want to go out but don’t want to deal with the usual nightlife stress. As he puts it, “No crazy DJs, cover charge or dancing. It’s hang out, drink beers, play games.”
Back and Forth Bar is located at 303 Columbia Street and is open Sunday – Thursday from 4 p.m – 2 a.m., and Friday – Saturday from 4 p.m. – 3 a.m.