Named the Colonial Hotel when it opened in 1889, what’s now known as the Yale was originally built to house Canadian Pacific Railway workers who moved to the city for work in the 1880s.
Waide Luciak purchased the Yale just under a century later in 1987, cementing the downstairs pub as a venue for live blues. By then, Luciak family members were still finding straw in the basement from the Yale’s old horse paddock used by loggers, who would ride down to the former bath house and saloon after work in False Creek.
The Yale closed for renovations in winter 2011. The challenge moving forward, Luciak family members say, lies in honouring the blues tradition that has blossomed in the bar while staying relevant for new generations of patrons.
“There was a fellow at the Yale, Robbie King, who was very important to the Yale, to live music in Vancouver, and to Motown as a sound on the whole. He was one of the first guys to start developing that Motown funky sound with the Hammond B-3 organ. He was also one of the first musicians to come out and say that he was gay.
Robbie King lived in the Yale. He requested that he live above the stage.
On nights that he wasn’t on stage, he was above listening to the music.
And if he didn’t like it, he’d throw on his housecoat and come down into the bar in his funny old housecoat and slippers, and kick the guys offstage. Quite often, the songs that [other musicians] played, [Robbie] would have written the originals for, so he would hear that it wasn’t up to snuff.
Robbie King died a number of years ago. By the sound booth at the Yale since the day he died, there’s been a shrine for him and also up on stage by the Hammond organ. You know, it’s pretty cool.”
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— Joe Luciak, Yale Hotel music director