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'The train still works': Vancouver's historic Railway Club has new owners, lots of live music

"What we're really trying to do is bring the community together."

While it may have slipped under some folks' radar, Vancouver's historic Railway Club is back in business with new owners taking the helm of the famed venue.

Tiberius 'Tabs' Alexander Baker and Freddy Grant (aka Freddy Fred) bought the popular beer cafe and concert venue back in February with plans to revive it; they were the third group to own it in less than a year after Freehouse Collective (formerly the Donnelly Group) sold it in the fall of 2022. The many changing hands have led to the creation of a plethora of Vancouver Railway Club social media accounts in the past few months. 

"The Railway Club really held a spot in my heart for a long time anyway, as a venue and as a place that I would enjoy music," Baker tells V.I.A.

Until now he's been a music producer, so the Railway Club isn't just a new venture, but a new type of business.

"Any new transition is always a challenge. But you know, it's worth it at the end of the day," he adds.

Baker and Grant are leaning heavily on live shows, with someone on stage every day of the week.

That includes things like hip hop cyphers (competitions) on Tuesdays, karaoke on Thursdays, and open mic comedy on Sundays. Each Friday and Saturday they have live shows with local and touring groups, like Snak the Ripper and Jarren Benton. In general, there's been a lot of hip-hop and rap at the club; Baker says that's his background.

And while they have the main stage up front, there's a second area in the back for a secondary show or live DJ.

"What we're really trying to do is bring the community together. So when I'm speaking about in terms of community, it's all genres, that's why we have two different rooms with two different vibes going on," says Grant.

Not just shows at the Railway Club

The club is opening up in the afternoons now, too, with service starting at 1 p.m. each day.

Right now the offerings are pretty straightforward with local craft beer (Wildeye Brewing has signed a deal with them, says Baker). On the food side, it's just nachos at the moment; the pair say a more fulsome menu is being developed.

In the summer they want to broaden the club's scope, with plans to operate as a daytime lounge with patio music and host summertime day parties on the weekends.

Historic Venue

The Railway Club is one of the most iconic venues in Vancouver.

Opened at midnight on New Year's Eve 1931, it was originally the members-only Railwaymen's Club. It ran as such for decades before music shows began there more than 40 years ago. This made sense, given the space had previously been the European Concert Cafe before the railway workers moved in.

It played a significant role in the city's music scene, with live, original music nightly. Everyone from k.d. lang to Radiohead to the Tragically Hip played there.

The business ran continuously for 84 years until it had to shut down in 2016. However, it wasn't empty for long, as the Donnelly Group bought it and renovated it in 2017.

The new owners have only done minimal decorating, keeping much of what was left to them when they got the keys to the historic venue.

But for those wondering about one of the club's features, Baker says: "You should let the people know that the train still works."