Given that I’m a media partner for the Canada Cup of Beer this Saturday, I thought it would be fun to delve into some local history when it comes to the spirited beverages.
Granville Street wasn’t always littered with inebriated revelers at all hours of the night and lining up like pageant contestants outside of booming clubs. Actually it used to be pretty dry in Vancouver for a few yeas as on October 1, 1917 prohibition began in Canada but (and it was already well underway in the US).
Rum runners in BC would sail up and down the coast, often with tens of thousands of cases tucked in away on lumber ships. One of such ships being the infamous Malahat, known as the Queen of Rum Row.
Rum Running of liquor from Canada or from Canadian ships to American boats off the US coast was a profitable business. Unlike the activities on the Atlantic, the Pacific Rum Running trade was much smaller and thus immune from Mafia interests. [Vancouver Maritime Museum]
BC’s prohibition ended in 1920 but from that point on (and until recent years) the sale of liquor would only take place in Government controlled stores – leading to the birth of a good ‘ol Cold Beer n Wine shops.
The first English-Canadian province to repeal Prohibition, BC became the source of much of the liquor smuggled illegally into the US before it too finally repealed its legislation in 1933. [KnowBC]
Some of the key players during the prohibition era actually helped form this city and even Granville Street as we know it, like the Reifel brothers and their father.
Henry Reifel began a brewery at Main and 16th on Brewery Creek. In 1908 Canadian Brewing and Malting on 11th and Yew later amalgamated several companies into Vancouver Breweries [see: more on Henry Reifel’s brewing]. Henry sold his brewing interests on retirement (in 1933) and donated property for the original Vancouver Art Gallery on Georgia. [Vancouver History].
His son George Conrad Reifel (brewmaster) sailed his liquor down the coast and with his brother Harry (Henry) Frederick built and owned the Commodore Block on Granville (in 1929) and the Vogue and Studio theatres in the 1940s.
The Reifel family donated much of their land to the city, including farmland in Delta known now as the George C Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Even the Reifel family home now serves as the regional headquarters of the Canadian Wildlife Service.
Update: After reading this post, Steve from Ubertor and Reachd passed along this article from The Vancouver Sun. It involves the beautiful home on SW Marine – Casa Mia – which is up for sale and was always my sister’s dream home when we were kids (and I’m sure it still would be now). The reason this all fits together is that it was built for George Reifel in 1932.
Update: In 2011, the mansion is either still up for sale, or up for sale again [VancouverSun]