The Venue: Biltmore Cabaret
The Venue is a profile series from Laura Murray Public Relations that ventures behind the scenes of Metro Vancouver’s foremost arts and culture venues, diving into the past and unveiling the unique stories and events that have made an indelible impact on our city’s creative community.
This week we spoke with Zak Pashak, owner of music hotspot the Biltmore Cabaret.
Some say a police officer was shot there. Others claim Miles Davis graced the stage. While its storied past may be filled with rumours, the Biltmore Cabaret's impact on Vancouver’s live music community today cannot be denied.
The venue first opened more than 50 years ago as the resident pub of Vancouver’s Biltmore Hotel (now the Howard Johnson), assuming many aliases over the decades. When Zak Pashak took over in 2007, he honoured the venue’s past by renaming it the Biltmore Cabaret.
A staple in Western Canada’s live music community (he founded Calgary’s Broken City and Sled Island Music and Arts Festival), Pashak felt a need for a live music venue to support both local bands and touring acts in Vancouver, as many of the city’s longstanding venues were shutting down.
“I wanted to see a venue that not only supported live music but felt like a hub for the community,” he says.
Inspired by New Orleans venue One Eyed Jacks, Pashak designed the Biltmore’s aesthetic, installing U-shaped booths and deep red damask wallpaper: “I wanted it to feel comfortable and rich.”
Five years later, Pashak says Vancouver feels like a different city.
“Vancouver was a hard place to open a business and get it running, especially a live music venue,” he says. “Now there are so many great new and rejuvenated venues supporting music – the Electric Owl, the Rickshaw, the Cobalt. It’s great to have more competition.”