Licensed Landmarks Close Doors

First, it was Joe’s Free Pour.* That was the one place that any Cheechako* had to be initiated to upon arrival in Whitehorse.

“It’s the first time I’ve been served a see-through Ceasar!” I exclaimed when my aunt and uncle took me there for the first time.

I don’t drink beer or hard liquor, and the place didn’t sell wine. It was an old-fashioned bar with good old-fashioned service, no frills attached. Walking into that place was like stepping back in time, both in decor and in atmosphere. The live entertainment consisted of good conversation with old Yukoners, friends, and, of course, Joe, who is a friend of my uncle’s.

If a good blues’ band is what you were after, it was a matter of walking a few blocks south, down to what the locals still call “The Taku” (the current name being The Discovery Bar). Another landmark in Whitehorse, apparently they’re closing their doors in a year’s time. There’s talk that the whole place is being purchased by a well-known group (who already own half of Main Street) and the building will be converted into offices, and who knows what will be on the first floor, but it definitely won’t be the pub.

These last couple of years, however, my visits to The Taku tended to be at the hour of the after-work crowd. The only entertainment was either chatting with some of the regulars, people-watching, and meeting people during the terrorist tourist season. I love the small pub feel of the place; it’s the only bar in town like it.

That leaves the downtown core with four bars that I can think of. One is a “joint” that, though busy, has, shall we say, a reputation. The other two are half the size of a football field each; no small pub atmosphere there. And that leaves the Gold Rush. Yup, fairly small, but that building, too, has been recently purchased by yet another local corporation. Will they keep it going? Probably. Will it be the same? Who knows! Oh, I almost forgot about the Roadhouse. Boy, has that place changed and for the better! (Nice outdoor patio, good food!) Hhmm… I wonder where the Taku regulars will end up going.

It’s funny how things change; in the case of local bars, most of the changes have been positive. My aunt and uncle talk about the old days when people could literally (and legally) walk from one bar to the next, drink in hand, then stumble into their car and drive home at the end of the night. Thank goodness we don’t see that anymore. But seeing more little spots that are congregating points for old (and new) Yukoners closing their doors one after the other is another thing. Because of archaic laws, no small business person can open a little pub because you have to have x number of rooms attached to the place. That leaves the door open to huge chains of hotels to set up shop. I’m not against free enterprise, but it wouldn’t surprise me of one or two of these eventually replaces the small individually owned places, making Whitehorse look more and more like any other city. We’re already seeing this in other sectors – just look to your right next time you drive up Two Mile Hill. Now, that I have a problem with!

(*Note: Hyperlinks added April 3rd, 2007)



  1. Anthony said,

    April 2, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    Wow, I hadn’t heard the news about the Taku, that will be a huge loss. I agree, we need more places that have a ‘local’ feel to them.

    Damn, it’s not going to be much longer before I’m one of those old ‘locals,’ sitting on some plastic barstool in some big shiny tourist bar with fake Gold Rush and RCMP stuff all over the walls, talking about the old days and where I used to drink. Sigh…

  2. The edge of the web said,

    April 2, 2007 at 9:08 pm

    The root of the problem is that (as stated) Yukon Liquor laws require a crash pad to be attached to the bar which probably made sense in 1898 but what is holding back change is that the same people who own hotels with bars attached are also elected politicians so we will never see a free standing neighbourhood pub which is one thing I miss about the south.

    I’d love a real Irish pub, with a host of international draughts on tap, a stone courtyard to choke back a ploughmans lunch on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

  3. Liane in TO said,

    April 17, 2007 at 6:22 pm

    The Taku to be gone! That will be a big loss. So much of my playtime was spent there -sad but true… and the after work crowd couldn’t be beat. In advance my thanks to Ed and Company for their fine hospitality – the kareoke and the pizza. My father hung out there in the sixties when he came in from Cassiar and I met a lot of great people there, like you Carole, and my son’s father… Somehow I just assumed it would always be there… Think I’ll go have a private toast to absent friends well met.

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