bar wars 

Bar wars rearing its ugly head? Music not the motive for managers By Paul Andrew If you happen to be a lover of dance music and a lover of beer, and you are living in Whistler, then you are in paradise — at the moment anyway. Things can change awfully quickly in a competitive atmosphere, but it has taken a relatively long time for pubs and bars in Whistler to start going head-to-head for the hip hop crowd and the house music lovers, who love their beer as much as they love their music. So be it. Bring on the music and let’s get wasted, at $9 a jug. If you do the math, that’s about $2.25 a beer. And although it may not be a real "pint," it’s a mug of beer and that’s all that really matters. So is the current craze over hip hop and house music a real thing? Or is Maxx Fish manager Jorge Alvarez correct when he says cheap drink prices mixed with an atmosphere unsuited to a "real" dance club are spoiling the experience of underground, alternative dance clubs? As recently as six months ago, there were exactly three clubs in Whistler spinning hip hop music. Now at least half a dozen pubs and clubs are holding hip hop and house music nights — to bring in the big crowds. "I’ve been saying all along that rock ’n’ roll is dead," Alvarez said. "Because I knew a long time ago that hip hop and house music is the future. People who are 19 years old don’t know who or what Pink Floyd was. We’ve been playing Fatboy Slim the whole time in our club and he just went mainstream last year. What does that tell you?" Alvarez says clubs such as Garfinkel’s and The Crab Shack Sports Bar are going for the hip hop crowd strictly to make a buck — not because their approach is progressive. And when Big Wood’s Restaurant went for the Wednesday night hip hoppers, it pulled that many more people out of Maxx Fish, even though Big Wood’s staff said it was acting as a "warm-up" venue for the hard core hip hop crowd. "Warm up? How can you warm up a crowd on cheap beer until 1 p.m.?" Alvarez asked. "That’s a load of crap. I’ve got a first class restaurant trying to steal my clients because they look around the village and see what’s busy, and it’s Maxx Fish. Then they play hip hop, but not for the music. It’s for the crowd and the beer is cheap. I won’t get involved in that. I refuse to get involved in this beer war and it’s spoiling the music scene. "What’s going to happen is, if this keeps going, it won’t be the music, it’s going to be how much is the alcohol. Maxx Fish is committed to playing the newest, freshest, hippest grooves and when you come in here, it’s an experience. It’s not for the cheap beer." Joe Kovacs, co-owner of The Crab Shack, doesn’t deny he’s using hip hop music to draw crowds in Wednesday nights, rather than the live bands he was booking throughout the summer. He wasn’t making any money with the bands, and that is the bottom line. "Absolutely," Kovacs said. "You should have seen this place last night," he said last Thursday. "It was jammed and we were playing hip hop. On Friday we have a funk and house night. Are we doing it to bring in the crowds and make money? Sure. There are only so many things you can do as a pub and that’s one of them." However, the "Little Bones" theme The Crab Shack was using might soon be gone. Based on the lyrics "$2.50 for a highball, and a buck-and-a-half for a beer" it is too much of an undercut, he says. "I don’t think we’ll do that anymore. But there’s a bar war coming. The strong will survive. The trick is to get people into your bar." Garfinkel’s pub has also changed its format to suit the current trend. Staff there admit straight ahead rock ’n’ roll won’t bring in the local crowds the way it did in earlier years, so now Mondays are hip hop and Wednesdays are house — in direct competition with Maxx Fish and The Crab Shack. That reflects directly Alvarez’s assessment that rock is dead and other clubs built more for a mainstream crowd are "tainting" the hip hop/house experience, which should be enjoyed in a room built for the underground ravers — not something that resembles a club from the city. Alvarez says he’ll run hip hop nights during the week, but on the weekend he’s glad to let another club pick up the hip hop ball. The Savage Beagle also has one night dedicated to hip hop music, when DJ Seanski, originally from New York, plays "old school" hip hop on Tuesday nights "I won’t do that because then you’ve got people coming up here on the weekends from the city looking for a fight," Alvarez says of weekend hip hoppers. "They’re bringing guns and knives. I’d rather do hip hop on Wednesdays for the locals, then I know who I’m dealing with most of the time. If I don’t like the looks of them, it’s $100 to get into my club." Back-to-back hip hop nights are the weekend thing at Tommy Africa’s, which goes against Alvarez’s theory. Ace Mackay-Smith has been a go go dancer at Tommy’s for almost 10 years and now does promotion for the club. She says it’s true that the crowd is more rowdy on weekends, but that is to be expected. And they haven’t had to drop the price of alcohol to attract the hip hop crowd. Neither has The Savage Beagle dropped its price on beer. "The reason we started hip hop nights was to be different. We wanted to do what nobody else was doing and that’s the trick because we can’t lower our drink prices," MacKay-Smith said. "We do have more fights on the weekends. But I think that has to do with it just being on a weekend anyway. I won’t dance there on Friday or Saturday because I know other girls will and I can be a little more choosy now. I guess it just feels different to me so I’ll go in on Sunday and Wednesday to dance. "I heard about Garf’s going hip hop. And the Crab Shack," MacKay-Smith said. "I think the difference is that we bring in DJs from around the world who are setting trends. It’s the higher-end DJs from the U.K. The other clubs will use resident DJs in Whistler because those guys are only working one or two days a week."

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