1275 Seymour Street

Before it was redeveloped as a condo tower, this was better known to many Vancouver residents as Luv-a-fair, a nighclub that ran for over 25 years from 1974. Needless to say, that wasn’t how the building started life. It was developed in 1937 by the White Motor Company, an American automobile, truck, bus and agricultural tractor manufacturer from 1900 until 1980. The company’s first motor vehicles were steamers; in 1911 President William Howard Taft purchased one of the $4,000 cars, and is said to have enjoyed using bursts of steam against “pesky” press photographers. White switched to truck manufacturing in the 1920s, as well as buses and fire trucks.

Their trucks could be found on Vancouver’s streets, and the company operated in Vancouver in the 1930s at 967 Seymour, but in 1937 White Distributors Ltd hired McCarter Nairne & Partners to design a $14,000 warehouse and garage built by K M Skene.

H G De Bou was the manager in 1940 when the dealership switched to selling GMC trucks, renaming the business General Truck Sales. Here’s the garage at night in 1946, in an Archives image. You could still order a new GMC truck here in October 1953, but by November you were out of luck – but you could buy a Volkswagen quarter ton truck, (or a Beetle), as VW Pacific took over the space. They weren’t here for much more than ten years.

In 1966 the building became The King of Clubs. Initially operating without a licence, (in 1967 28 bottles of liquor were confiscated). Run by Gary Taylor, who was only 25, and a drummer with his own band playing backup to the strippers at the Smilin’ Buddah he was backed by friends who were sports players. The venue had a transmission shop at the back of the building to help cover revenue. There was $3,000 in the safe one Sunday night in September when a handyman heard noises, and called the police, who surrounded the building and caught the would-be safebreakers.

In 1968 Dick and Dee Dee were here for a 2-week engagement in April, replaced by The Mojo Co. Generally the bands were local, including Gerneral Wolfe and the Redcoats, Accent, and Handley Page. In March the licence was limited to 8pm to 2am because of ‘inadequate luncheon service’. (They were operating as a bar, and should have been selling food as well). The licencing executive of the Liquor Distribution Board insisted it wasn’t because the waitresses were topless, ‘which is strictly up to the City of Vancouver’. The doorman must have been pretty effective: in May “Two male bandits wearing hoods and masks fled the King of Clubs cabaret, 1275 Seymour, just before midnight after a doorman refused to let them enter the club”.

Taylor and his backers sold up after three years; he went on to run a show lounge on Granville, and then Hornby Street. In October 1969 it was announced that Nashville rockabilly recording star Buddy Knox would be at the newly named Purple Steer for a three week engagement, during which time he would be buying a controlling share in the business. Billed as ‘Country Music Capital in Western Canada’, Knox often performed here when he wasn’t on tour, and a variety of other local and visiting acts filled the other performances. By 1972 the club had morphed into ‘The Garage’ – in September Sonny Martinez and his Blue Collar Rock Band were headlining, and in November Wildroot.

In May 1973 Robert Leigh Wilkins of West Vancouver had an argument with his girlfriend, and was thrown out by the doorman. He returned in his car, and attempted to drive into the clubs’s assistant manager. He leaped out of the way, and the car removed the club’s doors. Wilkins was charged with attempted murder. The club became a biker hangout, as two brothers found out after being knifed after an argument outside the club in 1974.

In 1974, the club, said by columnist Jack Wasserman to have had 5 names and 15 owners, reported it reopening as Love Affair, run by Barry Maggliocco. Actually it was Luv-A-Fair, and it lasted longer than all the previous iterations of the club, until 2003, just after our main image was taken. A Vancouver Sun epitaph summed up the nearly 30 year run: “The Luv-A-Fair is over. It was a club like no other this city has known – loud and garish and irresistible. Formerly the Garage night club, it reopened under new owners and with a brand new name, befitting a gay club, in 1975, and proceeded to transform itself over the years, evolving along with the city’s music scene and club culture. It has attracted, and entertained, all manner of rocker, punk, skater, goth and disco diva – sometimes on the same night.

Its walls reverberated to the live sounds of alternative bands such as Sonic Youth and Nine Inch Nails. Pop culture icons like Marilyn Manson, Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp prowled its poorly lit edges, late at night.” The who’s who of live and DJ’d new wave and alternative music started in 1979, replacing an earlier gay disco version of the club.

The club was replaced with Cressey’s ‘Elan’ 32-storey condo tower in 2008, with a townhouse base, designed by Merrick Architecture.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 586-4786, luvafair.com.


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