A Big Bad John’s kind of celebration

Victoria’s infamous Big Bad John’s celebrates its history with Big Bad John’s Day 2

By Rae Porter

Way back in 1962 John Olson transformed the Strathcona Lounge, B.C.’s first post-prohibition cocktail lounge, into something a little, well different. Intended as a temporary establishment that could cash in on the visitors brought through town by the Seattle World Fair, Big Bad John’s hillbilly homage has been going strong for 55 years. Saturday, November 25 will see friends old and new, raise a glass (or can) in a 14 hour celebration of this not-so-venerable statesman of Victoria’s nightlife.

So what is it about this backwoods beer parlour that keeps Victorians and tourists alike coming back for more? For one, it’s what adorns it’s hallowed walls. The chaotic, eclectic decor has reached legendary status.

Rusty, old farm equipment and vintage lanterns are surrounded by a global array of business cards, IDs, bills, notes, sketches, doodles; anything can be pulled quickly from a purse or hastily scribbled down makes it up onto the wall. And then there’s the peanuts. Let’s talk about the peanuts. Buckets and buckets of peanuts, it’s every allergy sufferers’ worst nightmare. As soon as you hover above a seat a plastic bucket of peanuts is plonked down in front of you. Shells litter most every surface and crunch underfoot. Every so often a peanut might go flying past your face as it’s hurled across the crowded room…well, you have to make friends somehow.

That’s also what sets Big Bad John’s apart from other joints in town. The place is a great leveler.

You might pull up a bar stool next to a politician, or share a corner table with a low key movie star. Impromptu sing-a-longs involving the whole bar are commonplace and spontaneous dance partners have been known to pop up. The atmosphere is always friendly, warm and just a little bit ridiculous. It’s been said when walking through the door of BBJs, you need to bring your sense of humour.

And it’s true; you don’t reach this kind of longevity without being able to laugh at yourself.

All of this, the history, the humour and the stories; all of this is worth celebrating.

Doors to Big Bad John’s Day II will fling open at 12 noon on November 25th, with door prizes up for grabs including a draw to win one of 10 pairs of Harbour Cats tickets. Once again there are limited edition, numbered, commemorative prints, commissioned just for this event, up for grabs.

A great reminder of the time you’ve spent in this Victoria institute, but rest assured time spent crushing cold ones at Big Bads is time well spent.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria vocalist Maria Manna reaches out to hard-hit Italy with special online song

Jazz singer to perform ‘Hymn to Freedom’ with Italian lyrics on Facebook at 2 p.m. Monday

Royal BC Museum joins home education trend for outreach programs

Free webinar options available for RBCM@Home and kids’ programs, starting March 31

Stars On Ice tour cancelled for the first time in 34 years due to pandemic

The show was supposed to hit the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre on May 12

Life mimics art for CCPA students who performed in play about Spanish flu pandemic

Performing arts students see parallels between story from Unity 1918 and current health crisis

UPDATE: Deadline extended for annual writing competition

Email entry format makes Victoria Writer’s Society contest perfect for the times

‘The Office’ star John Krasinski offers Some Good News in trying times

‘The human spirit still found a way to break through and blow us all away’

Vancouver Island musicians in quarantine thank neighbours with backyard performance

Nanaimo Chamber Orchestra director Karl Rainer and his sons play for those in self-isolation

Order of Canada Vancouver Island musician pens ‘The Ballad of Bonnie Henry’

Qualicum Beach lawyer and saxaphonist Phil Dwyer notes health officer has become a ‘folk hero’

Campbell River journalist launches Isolationpalooza II

Featuring all local musicians, a volunteer virtual concert, of sorts

Netflix reducing video quality in Canada to lower Internet bandwidth use

Bell Media is also planning traffic measures affecting the Crave streaming service

Will the show go on? B.C. music festivals consider options for 2020

Summer events running out of time to stay on schedule, in wake of COVID-19 uncertainties

Relief fund for Canadian performing artists gets $100,000 boost from foundation

Facebook started the fund with a first $100,000 donation last week

Henley, Tucker, Cyrus and others mourn the death of Rogers

Country music icon remembered as a crossover pioneer, a supporter of young artists

Most Read