This fall will see a new bar opening in a familiar spot on the downtown Whitehorse circuit — but Lefty’s Well won’t be just any old watering hole.
Springing up amidst a years-long chorus bemoaning the lack of available music venues, this intimate roadhouse will be addressing just that.
On Sept. 16, the bar at 102 Wood St formerly known as Paddy’s Place, Flippers, and the Rock, to name just a few iterations, will open its doors as Lefty’s, a music venue and gathering place created by Taya Fraser.
Originally from East Vancouver, Fraser has worked in all corners of the entertainment industry, from booking and bartending to promotion and performance.
“I started off slinging drinks out of a closet in a dingy live music after-hours,” she said of her first experiences in a Vancouver venue called Iron Road Studios, where she later began booking shows.
In the years following, Fraser formed and co-operated a booking and promotion company called Art Signified and opened Studio Vostok, a venue in Vancouver’s Chinatown. She also toured Canada and Europe as a musician and booking agent.
These years and all the experiences therein have culminated in a varied skillset that Fraser feels will lend itself well to operating a venue and bar.
“The space has been through so many different iterations, it has a ton of potential. The first time I walked into that room two or three years ago, I was like, this is the space,” she said.
“I’m putting all of my experience in what works into it, trying to realize its full potential. I want to create a quality establishment, that myself and my friends would like to go drink at, where people will feel safe and respected and at home.”
In light of the pandemic’s often-devastating effects on performers and venues, Fraser feels that live music and community are more important than ever.
“I want people to appreciate music again, I want to show them that live music is still worth spending your money on. Lefty’s is here to bring a community together, to show that the music community is worth investing in. I want to add to and foster a community that people will want to be a part of, both musicians and appreciators.”
Live music will indeed find a new home at Lefty’s, with full three-band bills already booked for most weekends in the coming months. This format is important to Fraser, as she feels it offers a more quality experience for showgoers, as well as space for less experienced musicians to share the stage with more veteran counterparts. This will provide opportunities for cross-pollination within the music community, and Fraser hopes to see new bands coming out of the woodwork.
“There are bands I’ve never seen or heard of that have been getting in touch to book shows — a lot of people feel there is no good space for them, I want to change that and offer a place for them to learn and grow,” she said. “There needs to be a stage for everybody. The priority is getting people together and creating something people want to be a part of.”
Fraser also hopes to someday use her touring and promoting experience to bring in bands from all over Canada and beyond.
Weekday programming is already in the works as well, with trivia nights and open mics coming down the pipe, not to mention the Well Bottom Blues Jam, booked for every third Tuesday of the month. This month’s blues jam will be on Sept. 20.
As for the bar itself, visitors can look forward to perusing a music-themed drink menu, as well as classic cocktails, local and domestic beers, ciders, and seltzers. Named after one of her favourite songs, “Pancho and Lefty,” originally by Townes Van Zandt, Lefty’s represents the realization of a long-standing dream for Fraser.
“I”m very overwhelmed but really excited to be able to use my experience to create something cool,” she said. “I’m stoked to work for myself and create a fun team and environment and a fun and comfortable place that people actually want to hang out at.
“I’m a simple person. I want to make drinks, throw a good party, I want people to enjoy themselves, and to leave being like, ‘That was a really fun time.’ So come drink, be merry, enjoy yourself, and go home!”
Lefty’s Well’s opening night will be Sept. 16, featuring local bands Franklin, the Bleeders, and Mr. Bigly. The next night offers locals Antarticus and The Follower, with visiting Skagway black metal outfit Polemicist.
Any artists looking to book the stage are encouraged to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Willow Gamberg is the owner of Road Dogs Music Supply and The Lab Rehearsal Studios in downtown Whitehorse. Gamberg is professionally affiliated with Taya Fraser at the latter venture.