The Community of the Fairview Pub

Have you ever been to the Fairview Pub on West Broadway? If you’ve checked out the Fairview in the past 30 years, chances are you’ve met a bartender named Smurfy. Smurfy is a petite blonde who never skips red lipstick, and has encyclopedic knowledge of sports. She might know your drink order or she might know your story.

She’s not the only one who has worked there for decades. Of course, the roster includes Blaine, Dave, Sheree, Chris, and more. The staff, musicians, and regulars have watched me grow up there for  over 25 years now. I’m the daughter of Fairview pub bartender Smurfy.

Recently, Arno Matis Architecture submitted a rezoning inquiryto convert the Fairview into short-term accommodation for Vancouver General hospital visitors. The Fairview is one of the last standing live music venues in Vancouver. The Fairview is known for excellent live music and open mic nights. There is no single genre. Jazz, blues, funk, classic rock, and tribute bands have been playing the joint for years.

Brickhouse, a widely known blues-funk band has been playing at the Fairview since the early ’90s. The Fairview community is full of dedicated music lovers who know that live music creates community. Ask most experienced live musicians in Vancouver about the Fairview, and they’ll likely have a story.

Most old-school Fairview pub musicians or bartenders can recall all the live acts that have come through the Fairview’s doors. Look up the Fairview’s calendar and you’ll see diverse acts such as Rez Blues, Incognito, Big City Soul, Arsen Shomakhov, Billy Dixon Soultrain Express, Cannery Row, and more. Every Monday night, Nimkish, a talented Indigenous songwriter hosts an open mike for aspiring young musicians at the Fairview.

The Fairview is a space where all backgrounds and generations gather to share their love for music. Many performers and patrons belong to various communities including the LGBT, Indigenous, working class, and so forth. My mother often tells me about which bands are playing as she smiles and says “how cool is my job?” For years, I’ve listened to stories about all the different types of people she meets at the Fairview, including Vancouver General Hospital patients and their families.

What’s interesting about the Fairview is not only is it a live music venue, it’s a hotel pub situated close to the VGH. There is a strong community connection between the Fairview pub and the hospital; many bartenders balance the role of psychologist as well. For VGH patients struggling with terminal illnesses, live music venues provide relief from hospital life that can create a sense of community for patients and their families.

Not only does the Fairview host plenty of musical events weekly, the bartenders are talented, charismatic, and excellent listeners.

Should the site be rezoned, staff who have been working for the hotel and the Fairview Pub for decades would lose their jobs. Meanwhile, VGH patients would lose a valuable musical outlet. It’s no secret in the West Broadway neighborhood that staff are deeply connected with hospital patients and their families on a weekly basis.

The rezoning proposal discusses the need for “wellness-oriented development” in the Broadway area. I believe in the necessity for short-term accommodation of VGH patients and their families. For patients and families, there’s nothing more devastating then travelling to a hospital only to find out short-term accommodation is incredibly expensive.

Families need to have close access to hospitals, but high costs may force them to seek out accommodation that is not nearby.

Furthermore, it’s unclear whether VGH patients can afford to access newly developed short-term units, given the rising costs of Vancouver. For patients travelling from rural areas of B.C. to VGH, this is a distressing reality. Is the goal of the rezoning to provide affordable units for VGH patients and their families? Or is the concept of “wellness oriented development” suitable only for those who can afford to stay in sleekly designed units?

Alternatively, the loss of live music venues such as the Fairview will impact the cultural livelihood of the area. Moreover, with Vancouver’s rising costs I’m concerned over the sustainability of the Broadway neighborhood.

Will another historic live music venue close? How will long-term Broadway residents be impacted? How will VGH patients and their families cope with high prices of short-term accommodation?

The intended purpose of the rezoning is to increase hospital patient accommodation, but the Fairview is now at risk of becoming an expensive tourist attraction that is exclusive to those who can afford to enjoy it.

The conversion into modernized units may not guarantee affordability for VGH patients. The costs of short-term accommodation for patients and their families isn’t an effective health-care strategy for the neighborhood—it may only increase barriers in accessing health-care in the Broadway region.

The hospital-oriented development will severely impact the Broadway neighbourhood, not only economically but also culturally. There is a need for further consultation to ensure that affordable accommodation for VGH patients and their families is the outcome of any rezoning.

Taylor Simone