A Vancouver time travelogue brought to you by Past Tense.
The Cave Supper Club was a Western Canadian chain of clubs in Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Edmonton. The first one opened in Winnipeg in 1935. Two years later the Vancouver location opened at 626 Hornby Street. This is the one that became legendary, surviving more than four decades and hosting the top entertainers in show business.
Like something from the town of Bedrock, The Cave was decorated with stalactites fashioned out of burlap and plaster, and the walls were made similarly cave-like. In the early days, it was a supper club with floor shows and so-and-so and his orchestra. Any alcohol that was consumed was discreetly brought in by patrons because liquor laws at the time forbade the sinful combination of drinking and entertainment.
It wasn’t until the 1950s that The Cave really hit its stride. It was the first night club in town to receive a liquor licence in 1954, which allowed it to afford top notch acts. Many performers viewed Vancouver in general and The Cave in particular as a good place to warm up before playing shows in Las Vegas. Crowds at The Cave were notoriously hard to please, making the venue a good test run before attempting higher profile shows south of the line.
The clientele in the ’50s dressed to the nines, even though many nights The Cave served as a strip club. Mainly white burlesque performers danced at The Cave (more “exotic” dancers of colour were booked into east side clubs), though such racial divisions were being challenged by the mid-fifties by people like the legendary Josephine Baker, who appeared at The Cave in 1955 and led the charge against racial discrimination in American night clubs.
The range of performers that graced The Cave’s stage in its four decade existence is mind-boggling. A partial list includes Louis Armstrong, Oscar Peterson, Lenny Bruce, Duke Ellington, Stan Getz, Fats Domino, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Jim Reeves, Louis Prima, Wayne Newton, Sonny and Cher, Lena Horne, Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Everly Brothers, Peggy Lee, Roy Orbison, Buddy Rich, Doug and the Slugs, the Village People, the Pointed Sticks, the Modernettes, the Police, and Ella Fitzgerald, whose 1968 show at The Cave can be heard here.
The Cave closed its doors in 1981 and the stalactites were sold off for $20 each.
Source: Library and Archives Canada #4328679