Buddha’s Cabaret Catches Fire

After Buddha’s Cabaret catches fire, bands and fans alike are mourning the venue.

Avery Nowicki // Communities Editor

Andy Poystila // Crew Illustrator

On August 20, 2023 at 11:20 p.m., Buddha’s 109 East Hastings (formerly Smilin’ Buddha’s Cabaret) was the target of arson. Caught too close to a nearby dumpster fire, the building suffered brutal damages, puncturing a hole not only in Vancouver’s emerging music scene, but in the legacy of an iconic East Vancouver landmark.

Buddha’s Cabaret operated from 2019 to 2023 as a local music venue, highlighting emerging bands, and hosting art shows frequented by sub-groups of Vancouver youth. Though before this short portion of its history, Buddha’s had a complex past, dating back to 1952. 

Originally, the venue operated as Buddha Dine and Dance, before gaining its infamous neon sign and reincarnating as Smilin’ Buddha’s Cabaret from the 1960s to the 1980s. The venue then became a sports bar in the 1990s, and a restaurant until 2019. Though, most young people of Vancouver who follow local bands, unanimously recognize it as Buddha’s 109—the venue known for midnight shows of young lead singers floating through crowds on ripped off doors, and singing in the faces of the large gatherings of young people you could find at every show. 

Buddha’s not only created a space for these new bands, it also created their micro-infamy. For someone new to the show circuit, there was an unexplainable feeling of thrill that followed you through each and every show, particularly at Buddha’s. In its most recent state, Buddha’s was recognizable only by the small ‘109’ lettering above its all black door, leading you into a dark venue with growls of inaudible vocals blaring through the amps. A big dog or two roamed around your feet as you entered, and a group of 20-year-olds sat ready to take your money for a door fee. The venue held assortments of young artists mingling around booths of homemade earrings, or the first shows for bands who were unknown to anyone else, but ‘the next big thing’ according to 1,000 18-year-olds.

Though now, with the venue having already been closed for DIY renovations before this act of arson, and the exacerbated damages from the fire, it seems the Buddha’s we know, may not resurge, leaving bands to scramble for replacement venues.

As of September 20, 2023, Buddha’s has received 86 donations, amassing a total of $4,750 out of their $20,000 goal. James Andrew, the venue’s current operator shared, “The damage is a huge setback and will require the property to be extensively restored and redeveloped instead of the DIY renovations we have been working on over the past six months, and over the past two years.” His immediate priority, he shared via GoFundMe, is to “secure the building from further damage and take immediate action for the space’s future.”

The venue has hosted artists like Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Tina Turner and Capilano University’s own Felicia and the Jazz Rejects. To support the renovations by James and his team, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/p4y77-help-smilin-buddha-recover-from-fire to donate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *