A city can never have too many live music venues. They are the places artists must have at their disposal if there is to be any form of supported musical expression. Vancouver has lost some of its best venues over the past years, yet as they say: “when one door closes another one opens”, and boy, you really have to experience stepping through the one that leads to The 2nd Floor.
In what was once a somewhat forgotten, dusty, and dimly lit dining room on the upper floor of the Water Street Cafè, has now become an entirely transformed red hot and cool little jazz club.
From the passion of music lover and co-owner, Eli Brennan (above), and the shared vision of his business partner, Chef Alan Tse, The 2nd Floor is an extension of the exemplary service and and consistent level of food that one expects from the Water Street Cafè swirled into a smoky (you can’t smoke here btw), sultry, New Yorky, and speakeasy type vibe with candles, good gin, classic European cafe chairs, dark forest green velvet booths, and musicians so close you can feel the heat radiating from hands, hearts, and lungs pumping out sweet music.
Says Mr. Brennan: When we took over the restaurant from Dominique Sabatino in November 2017, we were led on the grand tour of the building, exploring every nook and cranny. When we stepped up onto the 2nd floor, we both agreed that the space exuded Gastown charm yet appeared to be quite under-utilized and full of untapped potential. We envisioned this kind of subdued bar/intimate live music venue, inspired by speakeasies and jazz clubs from the 20’s and 30’s, and a year and a half later, we’re now sitting in it.
A long time supporter of the arts and die hard attendee of the TD Jazz Fest, Brennan saw the opportunity to create his own venue when the annual event was in its scheduling phase near the end of 2017.
When we took over the restaurant, I reached out to the Jazz Fest expressing my interest in becoming an official event venue. It was then that the concept of The 2nd Floor became reality. Gastown is such a great place for music. There are a lot of venues here and we thought: why not add to the scene by creating a New York City styled small jazz club?
Like most of Gastown, the Water Street Cafè resides within turn of the century architecture. Restoration can be painful but very rewarding. The lower restaurant retains much of its original interior, with huge windows allowing for nice views of life on Water Street. Mr. Brennan is a traditionalist and such a trait can be seen in the aesthetic of the new venue.
I love the history of the building and the fact that it was established in 1906 as the Edward Hotel. During our visioning sessions, our primary goal was to revitalize the history of Gastown and showcase the history of the building. We were able to keep the original hardwood floors and some of the overhead lighting. We wanted the restrooms to resemble those that might be found within a turn of the century railcar. We’re going to have a secret bookshelf doorway that allows guests to enter from the main dining floor via the stairs and up into The 2nd Floor. We want our patrons to expect a very intimate space where international and local artists perform up close and personal.
Often there are great live music venues hidden within holes in a wall, or descended upon via spiral staircases leading down into subterranean hideaways, yet many of these places don’t do dinner so well. The 2nd Floor has all the perks of the Water Street Cafè thrown into the mix.
The entire dinner menu is available on The 2nd Floor. What’s great is that you can dine in the main floor restaurant and then sojourn upstairs for a cocktail or digestif while being entertained with live music. Or, you may come for one or two sets, all the while enjoying the full level of service and menu that you would get in the main restaurant. If you want to pop up for a quick drink in the lounge, you can do that also. The charm of The 2nd Floor is that it is just $5 per set, and that goes directly to the artist, creating a fair wage and a safe place for musicians to both perform their arrangements of the classics and to experiment with original compositions.
And why do all that painstaking work to create a venue as nice as this and not light it up every night? Eli Brennan is doing just that by hosting musicians every single night in the month of October.
You can hear mostly jazz along with a few other genres, but every night in October you can find live music at The 2nd Floor. We have an amazing roster of talent coming in the doors this month – from the Jen Hodge Trio, to David Sikula, Bill Coon, Dylan Cramer, Big Dirty Boots and many more. I am a huge supporter of the arts, and I love being part of the music scene in this city. I am involved with a record studio and recording label, and have a lot of friends who are active in the local arts and music scene. Food and music go together, and a proper meal is much more than what’s just on the plate. There’s the atmosphere, then those with whom you share the table , and there’s the music you’re listening to. All three elements, together with good food, make a dining experience worth remembering.
The 2nd Floor heats up every night in October and most nights ongoing at 7pm.
Reservations: Space is limited in this intimate venue so when making your reservation please let the team know you are coming for the “Live Music on The 2nd Floor” to ensure a seat.