Show your support for the vets with a pint at the Billy Bishop
‘K, we’re going to get a lil bit preachy here, so bear with us: This Thursday is Remembrance Day. As we like to remind people, thousands of Canadian soldiers didn’t die or suffer unfathomable physical and mental injuries just so we could have a day off in November. So we, The Boozecan guys, implore you to avoid the shopping malls and all the tacky disrespect of wanton consumerism for a day, and at least try to catch the Remembrance Day services on telly. Better yet, if you can make it down to the cenotaph in person, it’s doubtful you’ll ever experience such a moving ceremony on that scale.
But it doesn’t all have to be all doom and gloom either. There’s a kick-ass way to support vets all year long—with a drink at a legion. Legions across Canada have been having a tough time as of late. It’s partly due to a dwindling membership—there are just fewer and fewer old soldiers around—and it’s partly their own doing. Legions haven’t exactly done much to encourage regular folks to pop in for a drink. But hey, what better way to support something than via a pint glass?
But before your turn your nose up at the thought of drinking in the stereotypical echo-y legion hall with metal banquet chairs around beat up, stained formica tables and the walls yellowed by 50 years of stale cigarette smoke, remember, they’re not all like that. And one of the best lies in the heart of Kitsilano—Royal Canadian Legion Branch 176—The Billy Bishop. And this Thursday, it’ll be packed to the rafters.
A different breed of legion hall
The Billy, as we calls it, is a different kind of legion. It’s nice. For starters, blink and you’ll miss it. If it wasn’t for the sign outside you might pass it off as a just an old house stuck amongst the apartment buildings of Kits. Yeah, it’s got the usual function hall on the upper floor, but below lies the heart of the Billy—the pub.
More than a pub, it’s a living museum. The walls are literally covered with history—hundreds of regimental plaques from all around the globe, historical photos, paintings and other military memorabilia. But it’s got an authentic English pub feel to it—fireplace, beamed ceiling, dart room, dark wood furniture, padded booths and tiny self-serve bar.
Everyone welcome at the legion, except douchebags
The misconception out there, as we hinted at, is that you have to be a veteran and/or a member to come in for a drink. You don’t, you just have to sign in as a guest.
But this is a legion remember. So good behaviour and respect are the order of the day (and guys, take your ball cap off if you’re wearing one—this is some old-school respect we’re talking about here). It’s not the kind of place you come to for a balls-to-the-wall night out—obviously. You come here to chill out over some pints in one of the few places in town where you can actually hear yourself think. No TVs, no shitty music blaring and, better yet, no douchebags!
That’s not to say it’s inhabited by saints 24/7. Friday nights there’s a lively English pub-style sing-song 'round the piano; other nights might see semi-regular music acts, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding dinner specials; and then there's the prerequisite (and by that we mean awesome) Sunday afternoon meat draw. There’s even a small beer garden outside for the spring and summer months.
As far as booze goes, you don’t really come here for cocktails (although they’re happy to oblige if that’s your tipple); you come for beer. And the Billy has a modest but respectable selection on tap at probably the best prices in the ‘hood, starting at around a fiver a pint:
- Piper’s Pale Ale
- Vancouver Island Lager
- Hermann’s Dark
So take your hat off, sign in and soak up some Vancouver history along with your brews. And if you get the chance, regardless of your view of the military, buy a vet a pint and say thanks. It’s the least we can do.
btw, Billy Bishop was a real live person...