clubs 218 

By David Branigan Since the untimely, and still mysterious close of Buffalo Bill's exactly one year ago, Whistler residents have been bemoaning the lack of live bands hitting the stages of local nightclubs. This summer the big five clubs; (Tommy's, The Beagle, Garfinkel's, The Boot and The Longhorn), will remain at a saturation level, with The Hard Rock Cafe's June 1 opening being the primary addition to liquor licensing in the village. As early as September, the Whistler Adventure Club in the Whistler Village Centre, is going to set a new standard in ski resort entertainment options. No one really knows, or at least will say, why Buffalo Bill's has remained an empty shell for an entire year while line-ups formed at every watering hole in the village. The union employees had been promised during negotiations in the spring of 1993 that if they accepted a minimalist contract with little wage increase, and a pittance for severance that the B.C. Labourer's Pension Fund that controls the Timberline Lodge would guarantee a two year window of opportunity to turn the finances of the operation around. After that contract was signed the club posted a minor summer profit, which was unheard of. In the first week of May, 1994 employees were called in for a mass termination while newlywed Joe Waistell was honeymooning in Hawaii. Timberline Manager John Berg shut down Bill's on the advice of LPF consultant John O'Neill. The Timberline has been on the auction block for ages now while locals gossip about the fact that Buffalo Bill's is going to re-open any second now (no doubt with U2 headlining). The fact remains that it is extremely expensive to run top notch live entertainment in Whistler. When you factor in $2,000 for a band like She Stole My Beer or the Bourbon Tabernacle Choir, plus lights, sound systems and technicians, accommodation (always a treat booking hotel rooms for eight band members in high season), food and liquor for the band as stipulated in their contract rider, plus advertising, tickets, staging and additional staffing you can easily run up $4,000 for a show where the biggest club in town is only licensed to sell 250 tickets. It's not a big money making game. If you get a calculator out you'll find that even a $12 ticket will only net you $3,000 on a 250 seat sell-out, meaning that the club still eats a G-note to put on a show, hoping to recoup those costs on liquor sales — a poor turnout means the club takes a bath. Now in the case of full-time live rooms such as the Boot Pub, they bring their costs down with their own sound systems and on-site accommodation in the Shoestring Lodge, but with a smaller seating capacity and smaller cover charges they are still in the same number-crunch risk rating, which is high to extreme. Despite the poor track record involved in making a decent return off your investment with live music some high rollers are set to enter the fray in the Whistler Village Centre. Gary Murray of Larco Investments in Vancouver, says Whistler can expect new directions from the 45,000 square feet that will be known as the Whistler Adventure Club. If they can translate from the blueprint to reality effectively, this should be a spectacular entertainment mecca. There is going to be a Grade A nightclub featuring live entertainment. The Adventure Club is made up of five major elements. Valley Alley will be an upscale, 18-lane bowling alley with wait staff on in-line skates. Glacier Bob's 60 seat pub "will be set up thematically so that you feel like you're drinking in the mountain home of a Sasquatch," Murray says. The Adventure Store is "3,000 square feet of high tech interactive one stop shopping for all Whistler recreational activities. The adventure store will take you wherever you want to go. We will have a Virtual Reality machine to transport you into cyberspace along with what will be akin to a central reservation centre for recreation." The Downhill Diner, a tile and chrome number with 150 seats, will have a Classic Coke feel. "I would almost say it's sixties American in feel and concept except that it will be given an injection of Whistler ambience," Murray says. "But what we're looking at here is a post modern Happy Days set with huge hot dogs and sundaes, great value pricing, and a complete theme from the Diner hats to the style of service." Finally, the 225 seat nightclub Extremes will have live entertainment and dead extreme skiers exploding out of the roof. "We will be going after the Buffalo Bill's crowd but in a dynamic and exciting new room," Murray says. "We plan to open with a very big name which I can't disclose to you at this point in time but the entire adventure club will open with a bang hopefully in September but definitely before next ski season." So the beat goes on. The other live liquor licence that will be joining the fray sometime in the next year is Whistler Mountain's 225 seater, which is slated to go in atop the Whistler Express Gondola at the base of Whistler Mountain. There are two rumours regarding the style of music. Some say it will be a country bar along the lines of Desperadoes, the impressive attempt that failed to open in the basement of the Whistler Conference Centre last year due to opposition from the Bar Association. What's more likely is an upscale, apres ski-focused jazz bar targeting the more sophisticated, international adult consumer. So for those of you who have been crying about the lack of good live entertainment, the wait is almost over. I suppose it is even theoretically possible, if the Timberline sells, for Buffalo Bill's to re-open under different management. Unfortunately, a purchase by the O'Neill brothers would set them and the LPF up for a collusion lawsuit. But time marches on and the past has no future.

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