On Saturday, Jan. 23, the good folks at Tapley's Neighbourhood Pub want you to party like it's 1981.
It was on that fateful day 35 years ago the bar first opened its doors in the heart of the village to the steady stream of construction workers, realtors and plumbers that helped build Whistler into the modern ski mecca it would become.
"Much of the town was based around Tapley's back in the day," explained manager Courtney Date. "When the town had its first boom... this was the hub."
Known today as "the locals living room," back then Tapley's also served as the community's de facto bank, call centre and job board all rolled into one. You could cash your hard-earned cheque behind the bar, make a call on the kitchen phone long before the days of smartphones, and, if you happened to be looking for work, you simply had to "show up and find out who the plumber was," recalled Peter Dutton, Tapley's chef for the past 24 years.*
With a clientele consisting largely of burly labourers, Tapley's became known for its hearty meals — so much so that the kitchen would regularly dish out 200 lunches a day to a long lineup of hungry patrons snaking out the door.
"Because they were construction workers, they wanted their gravy real thick and they wanted everything the way that mum used to make it," said Dutton. "If you didn't make the chili the way that mum made it, you'd be in trouble."
The restaurant itself would undergo some major renovations over the years. When the B.C. Government banned smoking in restaurants in 2000, then-owner Mike Fox decided to build a smoking lounge that would eventually turn into Tapley's expansive patio.
From the get-go it was — and remains — the place to go to catch a ball game.
"If there's a sport on somewhere that you want to watch, we can definitely have it," Date said.
But it wasn't until Gibbons Hospitality took over in 2004 that Tapley's would transform into the late-night hotspot it is today. "Back then, pretty much after six o'clock at night it was dead and now it's full," recalled 30-year Whistler resident Paul Fournier. "Now they've got entertainment, they've got dart games, they've got all kinds of stuff going on in there."
Through the evolution of the pub, and the community alongside it, Tapley's has held true to the same values that have kept it in business for a generation.
"A friendly, casual atmosphere doesn't ever become untrendy," Date noted. "It's very relaxed, very casual; it feels like your own living room, if not your grandma's living room. Although I hope it doesn't look like your grandma's living room."
Tapley's is turning back the clock to celebrate its birthday next Saturday. The bar will unlock the doors at its original opening time — 9 a.m. — and patrons will be able to enjoy 1981 pricing for an hour. Throughout the day the kitchen will also be serving up its timeless fried chicken — the same recipe from 35 years ago — and local cover band The Racketeers will help you ring in this milestone in style until the wee hours.
*An earlier version of this article referred to Tapley's head chef as Paul Dutton instead of Peter Dutton. Pique regrets the error.