A beloved Vancouver comedy venue is making a comeback. On Saturday (February 18), Little Mountain Gallery will open its doors at its new location at 110 Water Street in Gastown.
First up is Little Mountain Improv at 7 p.m. followed by Weird Owl Karaoke at 9:30 p.m., which is co-hosted by an owl puppet.
Brent Constantine told Pancouver over Zoom that he remains executive director of the nonprofit organization. It took possession of the new Gastown location last August.
“It’s a much bigger space,” Constantine, who’s also a comedian, said. “We’re going to have a downstairs theatre, a small room upstairs, and a big lobby. There’s going to be a lot more programming.”
It’s in the 110-year-old Gastown Hotel—a heritage building and social-housing project owned by B.C. Housing.
“We’re going to get a lot of traffic from people who see the word ‘comedy’ and wander in—or stumble in, potentially,” Constantine quipped.
The Little Mountain Comedy Department Facebook page has asked people to support its application to the City of Vancouver for a liquor licence at 110 Water Street.
Last year, the original venue was demolished in Mount Pleasant to make room for a residential real-estate project.
Location changes, Little Mountain name remains
In 2006, Ehren Salazar founded Little Mountain Gallery as a collective in a former automotive garage at 195 East 26th Avenue. In 2013, comedian Ryan Beil took over the space and introduced standup.
Constantine said that he “accidentally fell into managing” the space when it was being run by Beil. In 2016, Little Mountain Gallery became a nonprofit comedy club.
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On December 17 and 18, 2021, Vancouver comedian Graham Clark performed 24 hours of standup to raise money for the new location.
“We’re not in Little Mountain and we’re not a gallery,” Constantine declared. “We’re keeping the name.”
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The LMG executive director noted that the nonprofit is also seeking a development permit from the city to allow for a change of use at its new location.
“We’re going to be doing some test shows in this larval stage of the venue,” he added.
He described Little Mountain Gallery as an important community gathering spot.
“It’s like that third space that a lot of people talk about,” Constantine said. “It’s not your work, it’s not your home, and it’s just so important to have a space for any community where people can drop in.”
Performers will still be able to program their own comedy nights at the new Little Mountain Gallery, just as they did in the past.
“There are really great comics here, but the clubs all closed down during the pandemic,” Constantine said.
City provides financial support
Last month, Yuk Yuk’s Vancouver Northeast hosted an event at Hastings Racecourse and Casino. Yuk Yuk’s is now also offering comedy at Elements Casino in Surrey.
However, Constantine cited the need for a broader comedy ecosystem in Vancouver, with corporate comedy shows as well as comedy being offered in bars and restaurants.
“The scene is not in the best health,” he said.
In the last round of cultural infrastructure grants, Vancouver city council approved $250,000 for Little Mountain Gallery.
According to Constantine, that helped unlock further funding, including $125,000 from Heritage Canada and $100,000 from the Enabling Accessibility Fund.
The organization has pending applications with the Tourism Relief Fund and the B.C. Arts Council.
In one regard, Constantine is ideally suited to bring back Little Mountain Gallery. That’s because during the pandemic, he obtained a master’s in urban planning at the University of Alberta.
His thesis examined cultural infrastructure plans in various cities, including Vancouver, and the relationship between arts spaces and overall access to the arts. And even though the cultural services department in Vancouver supports offering financial assistance for the venue, Constantine said that this has no impact on how other departments, including planning, address applications.
“I work for an organization that deals with cultural space and art space, and policy,” Constantine said. “What I’ve seen on both sides of dealing with the city in an administrative capacity and from a cultural capacity is that without the supports, these spaces just can’t exist.”
Follow Pancouver editor Charlie Smith on Twitter @charliesmithvcr. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia. Send comments on the liquor licence application to: Licensing and Policy, c/o Licence Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org or voice-mail at 604.871.6555. Little Mountain Gallery encourages anyone who emails to copy the message to email@example.com.