The York Theatre

The York Theatre on Commercial Drive is a 90 -year-old small art deco building designed by the same architect who did Vancouver’s landmark Marine Building.   It has functioned as a theatre, a venue for concerts and finally a small cinema.  A developer has bought it and is trying to demolish it.  A devoted group of people are trying to save it.  

About 20 years ago, I went to a poetry event at the York with a girlfriend.  We thought a good-looking guy we knew might turn up there.  The venue was rather shabby in those days.  Punk bands often played there.  All the theatre seats had been pulled out and about 150 people stood around with their drinks, watching the stage.  The event became a bit raucous at times as some poets ripped into each other. We laughed so hard at one uber-sincere poet that tears came into our eyes.  I still remember the line that broke us up. “The bird of paradise has flown, leaving behind a whitening pile of shit.”  Maybe it was the drink.  The cute guy didn’t show up.

Sometime after that, I went to the York on a date to see two bands.  The opening act was Sarah McLachlan.  She was very young and not too well known but had her first song on the radio.  The main band, The Grapes of Wrath, were the big draw for the crowd, but news of Sarah’s lovely voice had brought people in. 

As we stood near the stage before the concert started,  Sarah came out with a band member and they started checking the equipment.

My date said, “Oh, I hate it when the musicians come out before they play – it destroys the mystique.”

I remember looking around the shabby York and thinking,  “Mystique? In this place?”

It was a fantastic concert.  I hope they save the York and restore it to its former glory.  It’s a Vancouver landmark and full of memories for locals.


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