Feeling philanthropic? Then it’s a good time to show support for a not-for-profit organization—and it’s always the right time to raise a glass. Now if we could only combine those two principles….In fact, Monday Magazine’s Behind Bars team has discovered just the spot at the Victoria Event Centre, a bonafide not-for-profit multicultural venue that has been hosting and supporting music, comedy, theatre and burlesque for over two decades.
It is operated by a small, artist and activist-run organization that is funded by rental fees of the venue, food and bev sales, donations and grants.
And…it’s a bar.
Tucked away downtown on Broad Street, it’s an eclectic venue with lots of room for mingling, a performance stage and lots of seating. And it’s open to the public—you don’t have to buy a ticket or wait for a special show to cross the threshold.
Just go on in—a surprise awaits: the infamous “Guitar Bar,” originally installed at Vancouver’s Hard Rock cafe, anchors the room. It’s quite the conversation piece.
Serving our Behind Bars squad was attending bartender, Keith Williams, who—befitting of the spirit of the VEC— is a stand up comedian and performer. A venue veteran after 10 years literally behind the bar, Keith and his colleagues have developed a list of evolving cocktails.
The VEC Happy Hour offers a wonderful selection at reduced pricing every day between 3 and 6 pm.
First up, he recommended the “Hibiscus Margarita” made with the VEC’s own hibiscus syrup. Refreshingly simple, this twist on the old classic did not disappoint. And who doesn’t love a margarita? Just when you thought you’d tried every version under the sun, the VCE version performs.
For the lovely and just slightly sweet “Bitter Sweet Sin,” Keith blended the house specialty VCE lavender syrup with freshly squeezed lemon juice and, of course, sinful gin. This one makes one pine for another and the warmer weather of summer.
Conclusion: bravo! The Victoria Event Centre deserves a standing ovation. And you’ll just feel better about supporting a not-for-profit.
What’s hot right now? We’ve really been focusing on local, sustainable and the underrepresented in our bar. We have a great wine list of BC wines, and a lot of sustainably farmed and wild-fermented wines. We support local cideries, and we juice our own fruit and make all of our syrups—lavender, hibiscus, orange and mango black tea—all in house.
In supporting underrepresented breweries, some really cool things have come through. Raven Brewery, an Indigenous-owned and operated brewery out of Vancouver, has ended up sponsoring one of our Métis bartenders to go to business school. The brewery has now actually created an ongoing sponsorship for Indigenous youth in business development out of this partnership—it’s incredibly cool!
What’s your most popular beverage? People love the Hibuscus Margarita. It’s a twist on a classic and it balances the flavours of sweet and salty. We also make a great Glitters ‘n Sparkles in the evening (not included in Happy Hour).
What makes Happy Hour at the VEC special? The VEC really is a collective effort where everyone, including our FOH staff, love the arts. Our head bartender, Keith, for instance, is the staff member who has been here the longest. You might get some stories or two out of him as he is also a performer—comedy, music and a little burlesque. He’s also frequently an artist featured in Art Battle, a night where artists do a live speed-painting battle in front of a crowd.
We have a cozy area to come alone and work on your computer, or with a couple of pals, but we also have the larger room, and often have groups after work who want to have an incredibly affordable and awesome place to chat.
People who want to come through the door and talk about art, music and performance and be surrounded by people who love the same things, will get that here.
How would you describe Happy Hour at VEC? Creative, bright, fun, collaborative and eclectic. The bar space is also shared with our Dandy Lion Cafe, which will often have community groups and collectives come in for workshops or gatherings. We have one of the cheapest happy hours in town, as all our drinks actually include tax.
Best memory from behind the bar? Well, it’s one of the best places to watch the show from, so we’ve basically seen it all back here!