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Museum Musings: A disco comes to Whistler

Club 10 opened beneath Stoney’s on Friday, March 6, 1981 in the space most recently occupied by Maxx Fish
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Whistler’s first nightclub, Club 10, opened 40 years ago starting a business trend that is just as popular today (well, once we are COVID-19 safe).

For decades, many of Whistler’s businesses, including late-night establishments, have been concentrated within the village. The first nightclub (or, as it was called at the time, disco) to open in the  village was Club 10, 40 years ago.

Club 10 opened beneath Stoney’s on Friday, March 6, 1981 in the space most recently occupied by Maxx Fish. The venture was a new one for the owners, Michel Segur and Jean-Jacques Aaron, both of whom operated restaurants in the Lower Mainland (Segur’s Chez Michel continues to operate in West Vancouver today). Club 10 offered music, dancing, some limited food such as cheese plates and quiches, and drinks in Whistler’s “normal, pricy range,” and, by all accounts, was an almost instant success.

As Club 10 was described as Whistler’s first “real disco,” it’s no surprise that the owners invested in their sound equipment and design, though it appears their aim was not to deafen their patrons. Guy O’Hazza, who installed the club’s sound system, said that, “The sound was not made to be loud, it was made to be clean. It’s directed at the dance floor, so you can still sit at a table and talk.” The system was installed with the capacity to use turntables, but at the time of Club 10’s opening the music relied entirely on cassette tapes. The music itself was varied, ranging from new wave to swing to country and more.

The interior of Club 10 was designed by Gilbert Konqui, who had also designed Stoney’s and, later that year, would design the interior of The Longhorn. According to Konqui, the design was “ultra modern mixed with funk,” a combination of “funky, fun and relaxed.” From the ceiling hung a combination of art nouveau lights and disco balls, reflecting red and blue lights throughout the space. Decorations included two plaster angels, an eagle above the bar, a wall of books, and a large image of Humphrey Bogart. 

The only part of Club 10’s opening that was not a success was the entrance, which was described by the Whistler Question as “a bit disconcerting” and reminiscent of a “somewhat sterile” entry to a warehouse. This problem was quickly solved by hiring Raymond Clements, an artist from Horseshoe Bay, to paint a mural in the stairwell. After three days, the plain walls were covered by mountains, chairlifts, ferries, and palm trees.

Through the 1980s, Club 10 hosted themed parties, fashion shows, and more before being sold to Mitch Garfinkel in 1990. Garfinkel, an attorney from Florida, had plans to open similar bars in various ski resorts under the same name, Garfinkel’s. Club 10’s space was redone, replacing painted walls with wood paneling, updating the sound system to play compact discs, and adding a large bar with a fish tank in the centre. In June 1990, Garfinkel’s was ready to open to the public, complete with its logo featuring a moose holding a draft beer.

Garfinkel’s operated for nine years before relocating to its current location in 1999. Though the business occupying the space may have changed, its purpose has been the same since it first opened as Club 10 four decades ago.