For those that have spent a considerable amount of time on the lower east side of Vancouver, Gastown, Chinatown and outwards to Victory Square, you are more than aware of the particular character this part of town possesses. Once the central shopping district of the city, the DTES boomed in the 50’s and 60’s with department stores like Woodwards and Eatons along with other retail and services creating prosperity and affluent culture in the historic district of Gastown. Sadly, over the past thirty years the increased levels of homelessness, poverty, sex trade and drug abuse, have lead to the steady decline of financial investment in the community. Many business owners turned their backs on the DTES in the late 70’s, opting for tenancies in areas closer to the current shopping hubs of the central downtown area, away from the challenges that this community was beginning to face.
Ye old Chinatown Circa 1950
But the times they are a changing, with the last 5 years playing clutch to the transformation. The gentrification of Gastown is in full swing, with some of the cities hottest new bars, restaurants, designer boutiques for clothes, furniture and appliances not to mention the host of new design firms, calling the former ghetto home. The lower east side is quickly becoming ground zero for all things trending in Vancouver, a movement that The Keefer bar is proud to be a part of. The renewal of our neighbourhood working closely with the city and neighbours to rebuild the area to its former glory, is something our team takes on with a huge amount of passion.
(Sharps disposal bins previously attached to the rear of the keefer building, vancouver was the first city in north america to implement a needle exchange program in 1989, leading to the fast decline of new cases of HIV)
“Let us take that used rig for you” – sharps bin previously at the rear of the keefer building
135 Keefer St holds a tremendous amount of historical importance for the history of Chinatown, and this whole area of the city. The building is the last remaining structure of the gas manufacturing complex of the BC electrical company. serving as the gateway to provide energy to the rest of the East side through its strategic access to False creek and ferry services hauling coal across to the mainland from Vancouver Island. It served the city with power under the disguise of a glossy bricked office building from 1910 through 1957, when the technology it used was made redundant by piped in natural gas. Below are some images that remind us of just how far we’ve come.
Pre facelift Keefer – the White Rhino of Chinatown
After 1957 the building was abandoned, it fell into disrepair and though the upper levels were deemed too dangerous and inaccessible, the ground floor was turned into an illegal booze den. Hosting an array of underground parties and raves right up to its purchase by Keefer Entertainment in 2007.
Floor Level showing the bare essentials for running an illegal booze operation, four years later the sweet smell of liquor still fills the air.
Operating as a Hotel for short and long term residences for 2 years after opening, all suites are now privately owned and no longer available for rent.
The Keefer Bar continues to play its roll as an evolving art piece and canvas for the creative minds of the Dani Tatarin and her team, who focus on creating a progressive space that can delight all of the senses.
The spectacular rooftop views from the pool of the Keefer Penthouse