Vancouver’s Beautiful Long Bar of 1976


The images in this post relate to an event I’ve just learned of: Habitat Forum 1976. City of Vancouver archives describe what occurred as follows:

Habitat Forum took place at Jericho Beach Park from May 27th until June 11th, 1976. It was a conference/exposition … in conjunction with the U.N. Conference on Human Settlements, also known as the Habitat conference. According to the Habitat Forum program, found in the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements fonds (AM337), “Habitat Forum is the collective name for the non-governmental activities related to Habitat: the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements.”

Habitat Forum staff and volunteers converted the five airplane hangars at Jericho Beach Park (former air force base) to an exhibition site for the Habitat Forum. They worked at the site from October 1975 until May of 1976 to prepare.

Habitat Forum was a private initiative, largely the vision of Al Clapp (d. 2013), a broadcaster and activist. Clapp also help create “Granville Island”, a revitalized, mixed-use urban space in the city. Granville Island Brewery took root there, an early entrant in the craft beer stakes. It still exists, owned now by Molson-Coors Brewery.

The Georgia Straight, in a memorial piece on Clapp a few years ago, stated:

Most people remember him as the guy who built the Habitat Forum in five derelict Royal Canadian Air Force hangars down at Jericho Beach. With a secondhand portable sawmill, some horses to haul driftwood from the shoreline, wharf railings that came from the Lions Gate Bridge, and a crew of employment-grant rehab cases, he built a people’s forum to parallel Vancouver’s landmark 1976 United Nations Habitat conference on human settlements.

Lindsay Brown is a Vancouver writer and designer who has written a book on Habitat Forum 1976, and her informative website explains:

Habitat I was the first time the global community had come together in a substantial way to discuss cities & all human settlements: the growing challenges of urbanization, rising inequality, the accelerating human migration from rural to urban areas, urban problems including clean water, sanitation, poverty and homelessness, as well as the nascent field of sustainable urban development and design.

In time, Habitat Forum became better known than the international Conference which inspired it (even as the latter continues periodically in different parts of the world).

In Hangar no. 7 a social centre and bar were installed. The bar, built of attractive blonde and tan wood as much of the interior was, was at the time said to be the longest in the world. Despite the spare construction an atmosphere of amity and warmth was conveyed, in tune with the wider environment – at least it’s one way to achieve it.

The serenity was enhanced by the beautiful murals, probably by the famous Canadian artist Bill Reid. Reid was a broadcaster, jeweler, and artist of partial aboriginal West Coast (Haida) ancestry. Some of his work decorates Canadian currency.

The black-and-white shot shows an intriguing pile of wood barrels in the centre. Did these hold beer? The photo caption states that “tankards of ale” were dispensed, yet the shots of people holding and being served beer suggest standard Canadian blonde beer was served.

Did the barrels, or some of them, contain whisky? This seems unlikely. Vancouver’s civic ethos was not quite as uninhibited as today and the long history of Canadian temperance and irregular prohibition, not far behind.

I think it is more likely the barrels held wine. In fact, one of the images shows barrels marked “Andres”, a venerable winemaker with a pan-Canadian history. One barrel seems to state “Tilford” though, probably from Park & Tilford, a Canadian whisky brand. Also, some shots show bottles of wine on the bar, so wine from the barrel would seem unneeded unless both forms were available.

If some beer was sold from the wood, perhaps a brew was specially made for the event. If so this would pre-date any modern craft barrel-aged beer in Canada.

Hipsters of 2018 will approve the plaid jackets and shirts, exactly like today’s, and the beards. In many ways the 60s-70s really were The End of History. And it started here, or a lot of it, arguably.

As to the pile of parti-coloured beer cases on the old-fashioned cart, it’s old-school all the way: no craft beer was available back in ’76 except any bubbling in hippies’ basements or Frank Appleton’s mind. Appleton is the early, influential British-Canadian craft brewing consultant, I’ve written of him before.

Every single one of those brands is available today, 42 years later. Some don’t sell as well as back then, but you can still get them. If you put the modern cases on a cart they’d look almost exactly the same. In contrast, the hangars and interiors were demolished after the event at the instance, apparently, of the Vancouver Parks Department. Nothing remains.

Vancouver to this day retains a rebellious, anti-establishment spirit. It mixes oddly perhaps with the town’s sky-high home prices and big money business and social circles, but there you have it. A lot of that spirit started around the time these images were taken.

Note re images herein: The black and white image was sourced from the City of Toronto’s archival photo collection, here. The remainder were sourced from the City of Vancouver’s photo archive on Habitat Forum 1976, see here for the group of 31 images pertaining to Hangar no. 7). All intellectual property in the images belongs solely to their lawful owner, as applicable. Images used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.








3 thoughts on “Vancouver’s Beautiful Long Bar of 1976”

  1. I went to the Habitat Forum as a volunteer Gary through a school program. Sadly I don’t remember anything to add to your post. I can tell you that just past Granville Island, on the east side of Cambie Bridge was Sweeney Cooperage which made barrels for a 100 years and was bought out when False Creek was cleaned up for Vancouver’s World Exposition.

    • Thanks very much Howard, I should have thought to ask you about this. This interview with Al (Alan) Clapp in 2006 may interest you:

      I don’t know if he is talking about the same plant, that made wood water tanks and pipes. I’m not clear either if the plant he talks about that was owned by Marathon Realty became the site of the Granville Island urban project or Habitat Forum 1976. Any comments?

      Finally, I have a theory that the wine barrels from Andres were tapped to sell wine but not the barrels on which they stand, which appear all to be Park & Tilford whisky barrels. The pictures do not show taps on the lower barrels, and the upper ones are just Andres barrels, with more standing alonside (untapped) for reserve. I think the Park & Tilford barrels were old discarded ones that they used just to support and display the Andres barrels.

      I think it’s unlikely in other words any of the barrels held beer although you never know.

      Andres (I checked) started up winemaking in Port Moody in 1961…


  2. See this precis of Andres wine history from the website of the winery, now called Andrew Peller or Peller Estate: The account states that Andres winemaking was inaugurated in Port Moody, B.C. in 1961. Hence the barrels marked A or Andres were clearly from that source, but whether all contained Andres wine is still unclear to me at this moment.


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: