Almost as old as the city itself, the heritage of THE VANCOUVER CLUB in Canada is closely intertwined with the rising fortunes of the province. Every space in the club is elegant and rich with history.
Stroll along West Hastings Street in Vancouver’s business district and you’ll come across the arresting sight of a sophisticated five-storey building, with a symmetrical five-bay, brick and terra cotta front façade, nestling between the mirrored high-rises. Behind the listed Edwardian façade lies The Vancouver Club, a private members’ club that is almost as old as the city itself. Founded in 1889 when Vancouver was a tiny logging town with around 2,000 inhabitants, the club kept pace with the settlement’s rapid growth. By the time the new clubhouse – the present premises – opened in 1913, the city had a population of around 100 000. The final coat of paint had dried on the current clubhouse by December 1913 and on New Year’s Eve, members dressed in top hats and tails paraded into the building at the stroke of midnight, marking the start of a new era of elegance.
The founding fathers had a vision of creating a club where businessmen – for they were exclusively male in those days – could get together to dine, drink, relax and connect with others. The commitment to elegance, comfort and exclusive service remains as relevant as ever, as does the aspect of socialising and networking, but a lot of other things have changed in the intervening 125-odd years. In 2000, The Vancouver merged with the city’s only private women’s business club, The Georgian, in a move that opened the club’s doors to female members. Membership is currently 70% male and 30% female and, with an average age of 37, younger than the historic exterior might suggest. The club’s 2400 members come from industries of every stripe, from diverse local companies and creative organizations to multinational, global ventures.
Another feature at the club that would probably have confounded the founding fathers is the fully equipped gym on the lower level, where members can use training equipment, take yoga or pilates classes and work up a sweat in the steam room. And the wireless business centre, with computers and printers, would probably have seemed supremely puzzling.
What they would have instinctively understood, though, is the club’s continued commitment to providing outstanding service. The talented membership and hospitality team, headed by general manager Philip Ireland, has a very simple goal: to provide members and their guests with the very best of everything: service, dining, wines, events. The “very best” takes on many guises inside the clubhouse, ranging from fine dining in The Grill, the culinary heart of the clubhouse which is two restaurants in one elegant package: lunches are served in the sunny Atrium, while the main Grill focuses on imaginative modern cuisine with sustainable, locally sourced ingredients and globally inspired dishes. The clubhouse has even taken its dedication to locally sourced ingredients to new heights – literally: in the club’s “Zero-mile” roof-top garden, all manner of hard-tosource herbs, savouries, edible flowers and seasonal vegetables are grown for the kitchen, slashing the distance from soil to plate to a matter of a short elevator ride.
The club also boasts two luxurious bars: the Gold Bar and the Captain’s Bar. The former features an eye-catching gold mosaic bar and a cosy lounge with marble tables and inviting armchairs. The Captain’s Bar is a more private refuge and a great place for a game of poker and a drink. A quirky detail here are the historical wooden lockers which members can rent to store their bottles of wine and spirits.
Not that members need to be self-reliant when it comes to enjoying fine wines and spirits: the club also has an extensive wine cellar, packed with fine wines and rare vintages. Over the decades, The Vancouver Club has become one of the largest wine buyers in British Columbia, and passes this clout on to its members through volume, service and exclusive prices. It also has its own scotch, a 12-year-old single malt Glenfarclas, which is specially bottled for the club.
“The ambition of the Vancouver Club is to be cherished”, says Megan Armstrong, Director of Membership, “and we honour our best traditions in a contemporary way.” One of these traditions is the commitment to providing opportunities for members to socialise and learn, for instance through the popular Fall Extravaganza, the club’s yearly gala attended by 800 members and their guests who come to enjoy five floors of food, bars and entertainment. Other regular events organised by the club include master classes on a variety of subjects, wine tasting sessions, book clubs and speaker’s events. The dress code at the club is very simple: “We like our members to dress their best”, says Armstrong, which means smart casual attire; denim or athletic wear are not accepted.
With elegance writ into its DNA, the clubhouse is a popular venue for weddings and functions of all sizes, with the suites ranging from intimate 20-seater rooms to the Grand Ballroom, which accommodates up to 200 people for banquets and lavish celebrations. There are also eight hotel rooms for members and guests, as well as affiliations with three hotels close by.
One thing the club takes particular pride in is the ability of its concierge service to fulfil any wish, no matter how small or frivolous: A case of vintage wine? Done! Tickets for a show? A new pair of socks? When would you like them? After all, this is a club that has had 125 years to hone its hospitality skills!