Walk on the wild side with Will Woods

Penthouse Vancouver tour

A typical Penthouse floor show back in the day. Photo courtesy The Penthouse.

Will Woods’ Forbidden Vancouver walking tours get consistently high ratings on TripAdvisor. Earlier this year, Woods expanded his repertoire of “forbidden” places to include the Penthouse, one of Vancouver’s last remaining strip clubs, and one of the few remaining historic venues left in the city.

After two sold-out tours of the Penthouse in January, Woods is again taking the curious on a tour of the club, which over the years has seen guests like Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra come through its doors and has survived gangsters, the Vancouver Police Department and a fire.

Late last year, Liquor, Lust and the Law, a history of the Seymour Street nightclub was published to great acclaim. The book has since gone on to earn author Aaron Chapman a nomination for a B.C. Book Prize. Meanwhile, the Penthouse’s stock as a heritage space (albeit one with exotic dancers) has grown. Probably as a result of gentrification – the building is surrounded by almost nothing but condos – what was once a slightly sleazy slice of Vancouver is now regarded as a one of the city’s few tenuous connections to the past. Go figure.

Penthouse Vancouver tour

Photo credit: Rebecca Blissett photography.

Writing on the local news website The Tyee, Chapman summarizes the early days of The Penthouse: “The Filippone family bought the land the Penthouse sits on in 1941, and began building the building that still exists there today. What originally housed the operations for their trucking and taxi business also found space for their Eagle Time Athletic Club, turning the building into somewhat of a community centre for over 500 local kids, with the Filippones sponsoring boxing, soccer teams, and baseball. The club already had its own boxing star with Jimmy Filippone a two time B.C. Golden Gloves champion. After the Second World War, in 1947 the Filippones began to expand the building and the business into what would eventually become the nightclub.”

If you’re curious about the Penthouse and its storied past, Woods’ next guided tour is April 4. There’ll be at least two more tours. One is scheduled for May 2, the other for June 6.

For more information visit Forbidden Vancouver.

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