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Bars, Pubs & Watering Holes

Not too surprisingly, given that the city originated with a saloonkeeper, Vancouver has more than a few joints where you can wet your whistle. That’s in spite of some pretty restrictive liquor laws that are a nasty hangover from the days of Prohibition—for instance, until recently, in many establishments you couldn’t drink standing up or without “having the intention” to eat (which explains the once-popular lunch of beer and toast). The laws have been gradually loosening up and 2014 is seeing a major overhaul of the entire provincial liquor policy, so expect lots of change that will make it easier to enjoy a drink.

Mind you, it’s not that hard now, given how many bars, pubs, lounges, and “food-primary” (but booze-forward) establishments there are in the city.

In the early days, it was all about the pubs—not surprising, given Vancouver’s British heritage. These days, we’re seeing gastropubs like the Irish Heather (210 Carrall St.; tel. 604/688-9779; www.irishheather.com) or Alibi Room (157 Alexander St.; tel. 604/623-3383; www.alibi.ca), or brewpubs like Steamworks (375 Water St.; tel. 604/689-2739; www.steamworks.com) or Yaletown Brewing Company (1111 Mainland St.; tel. 604/681-2739; www.markjamesgroup.com). In addition, craft breweries are popping up all over the place, and some, such as Brassneck Brewery (2148 Main St.; no phone; www.brassneck.ca), allow patrons to hang around and enjoy a beer in the tasting room.

Those who can’t imagine their pint without a big-screen TV will want to head to one of the city’s sports bars, such as Shark Club (180 W. Georgia St.; tel. 604/687-4275; www.sharkclubs.com) or Red Card (Moda Hotel, 560 Smithe St.; tel. 604/689-4460; www.redcardsportsbar.ca).

Hipsters may want to check out the cool bars along Main Street, including The Cascade Room (2616 Main St.; tel. 604/709-8650; www.thecascade.ca), The Whip (209 E. 6th Ave.; tel. 604/874-4687; www.thewhiprestaurant.com) and the Shameful Tiki Room (4362 Main St., tel. 604/999-5684; www.shamefultikiroom.com). Stylish trendsters, on the other hand, may want to head to one of Yaletown’s “ultra-lounges,” such as Afterglow (1082 Hamilton St.; tel. 604/602-0835; www.globalgroup.com) or George (1137 Hamilton St.; tel. 604/628-5555; www.georgelounge.com).

Dance Clubs

Generally, clubs are open until 2am every day but Sunday, when they close at midnight. In the summer months (mid-June through Labour Day), open hours at some clubs extend to 4am. The city’s clubs and discos are concentrated around two “entertainment zones,” downtown around Granville Street, and along Water and Pender streets in Gastown.

Gay & Lesbian Bars

BC’s enlightened attitude—remember, same-sex couples can wed in Canada—has had a curious effect on Vancouver’s queer dance-club scene: It’s so laid-back and attitude-free that it’s often hard to tell straight from gay, male go-go dancers and naked men in showers notwithstanding. Most bars and clubs are in the gay village of the West End, especially along Davie Street. Many clubs feature theme nights and dance parties, drag shows are ever popular, and every year in early August, as Gay Pride nears, the scene goes into overdrive. QMUNITY, BC’s Queer Resource Centre (1170 Bute St.; tel. 604/684-5307; www.qmunity.ca) has information on the current hot spots, but it’s just as easy to pick up a free copy of “Xtra West!,” available in most downtown cafes.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.