AOL PICK from our Editors
Victoria’s nightlife is fairly low-key, relaxed and casual. True to its British roots, Victoria has a healthy pub culture, with many traditional English-style pubs for your bangers and mash or an afternoon pint, as well as modern brewpubs offering contemporary west coast fare and a host of beers brewed onsite. If you’re looking for something a little more lively, Victoria has a surprisingly good music scene for its size. A steady flow of touring acts stops through Victoria, and the city also plays host to music festivals, including Jazzfest (www.vicjazz.bc.ca), Ska Fest (http://victoriaskafest.ca), and Rifflandia (www.rifflandia.com). Supported in part by an energetic university and college crowd, and the growing cohort of young professionals, Victoria has intimate live music venues, top-40 bars, lounges and sweaty clubs. Like many things in this compact little city, the majority of Victoria’s best nightlife can be found within walking distance or a short cab ride from the Inner Harbour, so you won’t have to look too far to find something going on any night of the week. Pick up a copy of Monday Magazine (www.mondaymag.com), available in cafes, record stores, etc. (comes out every Thursday), for listings of live music, clubs and events.
Boutique clothing and record store by day, stylish cocktail lounge and eatery by night, this downstairs lounge (beside and below Lyle’s Place record store) has a cool, clean style and an urban vibe you won’t find a lot of in Victoria. They serve an internationally influenced menu with lots of dishes good for sharing, and more important, the longest martini list in town. The resident DJs spin chill sounds, usually a blend of dub step, reggae, trip-hop and liquid funk. The mellow atmosphere is conducive to conversation and the booth seating is best for small groups. Whitebird Lounge is open Tuesday to Thursday, 5PM till late, and Friday to Saturday, 5PM to midnight.
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This newly renovated night club is on the corner of Bastion Square, perched above Darcy’s Pub. Typically open Thursday through Saturday nights, with touring bands or DJ’s, Upstairs also opens the doors for shows and events on other nights of the week (check their events calendar for details). Although it’s a fairly small room, it feels spacious, with nice lighting and large windows overlooking the harbour. The décor is chic and attractive and often so is the crowd.
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With five bars housed in one building, the Strath often becomes a little hub of evening activity, especially during summer months. The Sticky Wicket Pub takes up most of the ground floor. It has some good appy specials and fills up during Canucks hockey games. Next door Big Bad John’s is a quirky hillbilly hovel where you can swill beer, chuck peanuts on the floor and marvel at the décor. If the evening is warm, head up to the Rooftop Surfclub to party on the patio or play some beach volleyball. Or, if you need to dance, venture down into Club 9 One 9 for non-stop top-40s dance beats.
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Smoke, lights, DJs. Touch Lounge, like its predecessor, Red Jacket, gets packed on Friday and Saturday nights. If you’re not on the guest list come early to avoid the line. Inside you have a choice from three separate rooms, each with a different DJ. The main room tends to be the liveliest. Head upstairs if you’re looking for a chiller vibe and even crawl into the curtained cuddle room for some privacy. Touch is also open Monday nights with $3 drink specials.
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Sugar is Victoria’s dedicated show venue. Although the outside needs a little upkeep, you won’t be going to sugar for its charm. You’ll go for the music, and they bring in some great touring and local acts across many genres. As with any venue, the crowd changes depending on the act, but the room is dominated by a dance floor and there’s often a pretty lively crowd beneath the big disco ball. You can buy tickets at Lyle’s Place (770 Yates St.) for all gigs. In general, they put on a couple shows a week, so check their website or Monday Magazine for details, including other places to buy tickets.
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If electronic dance is your thing, Hush is the spot for you. The bar is mostly a dance floor with a bar down one side, a little seating and a pool table in the back. Techno, house or drum and bass are usually the sounds at this ravy club. It can be a little subdued during the week (some nights the pool table in the back sees more action that the dance floor), but it picks up on weekends, especially with visiting DJs on the scene. When the young crowd does hit the dance floor it’s generally a fun and friendly scene.
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Neighborhood: Vic West (Esquimalt)
Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub is perched above the seaside walkway in Vic West, with views across the water toward all the attractions of the Inner Harbour. Although it is slightly removed from downtown, it can be a pleasant walk across the blue bridge or a quick ride on the Harbour ferry. The pub, the oldest brewpub in Canada, has a fine selection of its own handcrafted ales on tap. They serve up everything from pale to dark, light to full-bodied brews, so there’s something for everyone. For a change from beer, get a glow on with a glass of Tugwell Farm’s mead, a honey wine that can be regarded as the ancestor of all fermented drinks. The place has a loyal clientele—look above the bar where the personal steins of some of its most dedicated patrons are hung for safekeeping. It’s a great spot for a casual evening or as the starting point for a bigger night out.
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Go for dinner, stay for drinks. The Mint, open until 2AM every night of the week, has become a popular hangout for young, urban Victorians looking for an alternative to the pub scene. This cool, atmospheric restaurant/lounge plays smooth lounge beats in a nicely lit room. If you’re there for dinner they offer a full menu of Asian-influenced dishes, many with a Nepalese or Tibetan flare. After (or instead of) dinner there is a great list of cocktails and imported beers to choose from.
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This large pub, one of Victoria’s newest, has given a new life to the grand old bank building it’s housed in. With a seating capacity of 320, two patios and several bars, the Bard and Banker offers a multitude of seating options. The multi-leveled interior space is divided with stained-glass partitions and detailed with rich wood and brass rails along the stairs and landings. There is nightly live music played from an upper alcove, which often has the Celtic feel you might expect at this Scottish pub. The bar boasts 30 beers on tap, 20+ varieties of vodka, and a scotch and whisky selection nearing 100. If you build up an appetite as you work your way through the beer list, they also have a full menu that combines nouveau and traditional pub fare.
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Lucky is known best for its live music shows. From indie rock to metal or trance, this is one Victoria venue that can be going any night of the week. As well as live acts and DJs, Lucky offers some weekly theme nights to round out their mix. The layout is a bit long and narrow and it can get really packed, so watch your drink—you will get bumped. Included are a popular Monday night 90210 90s revival dance party and the Saturday night Solid, an eclectic mix of danceable beats put on by resident DJ Longshanks.
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