The Tavern of the Damned: Logan’s Pub closes down after 23 years

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Logan's Pub closes after 23 years
Photo by Sonja Pinto.

After 23 years of kicking ass, Logan’s Pub has kicked the bucket. No more naked bicycle rides, mosh-pit-jumping stage dives, or music so loud it shakes the glass in the street lamps along Cook Street. 

To many of its regulars, Logan’s wasn’t just another local venue, it was the “Tavern of the Damned,” a center for local counterculture that encouraged all its patrons to be “Original, Authentic, and Unique.” 

The pub originally shut down on March 17 due to COVID-19, but with the cost of COVID-19 operational restrictions and concerns over a second wave, the pub remained closed. On Oct. 27, the owners of Logan’s Pub announced that the doors of the legendary venue will permanently close. However, the owners will continue to run the adjacent Logan’s Liquor Store located at 1821 Cook Street. 

In tribute and memorial to Logan’s, the Martlet talked to three people who knew the venue well. For those who used to frequent Logan’s, the nostalgia and memories from the Tavern of the Damned are unforgettable. 

The music that shook Cook Street’s streetlights

Electric Empress playing at Logans Pub, Victoria, BC, over a number of years.
Electric Empress playing at Logans Pub, Victoria, BC. Photo by Tristan Shouldice.

The Tavern’s unique acts were a legendary part of the music scene in Victoria. On any day of the week, the Tavern could be hosting David Bowie Tribute bands, quiet folk gigs, any variety of punk, metal, harsh noise, or even Eastern-European street music. The venue was also a space for the Queer community, providing a venue for burlesque and becoming the home for Haus of Occult’s Queer Variety shows on a bi-weekly basis. 

 “We really had an emphasis on original music … and on stuff that was not really on the beaten track,” says Scott Henderson, a local music studio head and the venue’s primary soundtech for the last 16 years. He went to his first gig at Logan’s, “the Murder City Devils,” in 2000.

At Logan’s, bands of all abilities were welcomed onto the stage. You could find a college band getting their start, veteran local bands, or touring bands that were on their way up. 

“We really didn’t rule anything out … we tried to be very inclusive,” says Henderson. “The thing I loved about working there is it kept me in touch with the local scene, particularly the youngsters. I’m 61 now, and I would be rubbing shoulders with the 19-year olds that were forming bands even though they didn’t know how to play.”  

This diversity of performances engrained a strong sense of community in the Tavern. The unique and niche variety didn’t divide people as much as it brought all different types of people together into a shared space. It was a place where complete strangers could become friends by the end of the night; you just had to be yourself.

La Chinga playing at Logans Pub, Victoria, BC.
La Chinga playing at Logans Pub, Victoria, BC. Photo by Tristan Shouldice.

The person behind every concert and event was Mihkel Kaup. Kaup, Logan’s events planner who was responsible for booking its eclectic gigs, found the venue in fall 2000.

“I walked into the pub looking for a Kilkenny beer to drink, and they had it on tap, and I felt at home right away,” says Kaup. 

But the Tavern was more than just a place for a pint. For Kaup, “it provided a room to express [yourself] in and to mingle with the neighbourhood and the whole Victoria community. You were either intimidated by this place, you were either afraid to walk in it, but if you walked in it, most people would walk in and just fall in love with the place. It either resonated with you or it didn’t.”

Chaos, in pub form

The Martlet asked Carolyn Mark, a weekly performer and regular of the pub since it was called Thursday’s Sports Bar, to explain the culture of the Tavern. She responded with one word: “Chaos.” And chaos it was. 

Whether it was stories of people dancing on the bar, patrons throwing themselves head first into garbage cans screaming “I’m a honky-tonk man,” an infamous naked bicycle ride through the pub, or simply the pub’s lock ins because the music was too good to stop, the Tavern of the Damned provided many legendary stories for those that dared to enter.

“You know some of those stories I can’t even talk about. If social media had been around in the day I don’t think it would have happened,” says Kaup, reminiscing. “[the Tavern] provided an island for misfit toys.” 

It was this kind of anything-goes spirit that made the pub legendary. The Tavern was a refuge for those who sought it, no matter how crazy, unique, or strange.  It was a place to be yourself and give into the chaos a little bit. 

La Chinga playing at Logans Pub, Victoria, BC.
La Chinga playing at Logans Pub, Victoria, BC. Photo by Tristan Shouldice.

Misfits without an island

Kaup, Henderson, and Mark were divided on where Logan’s patrons would go next or what might crop up in its place. 

Kaup admits that Logan’s closing down “sucks,” but he has faith that the punk and metal scenes will survive by moving underground. 

“I think there will be a lot of basement shows, a lot of guerilla punk type events,” he says.“In hard times … crushing art down to a point where you get the diamonds out of it — it takes away all the people that were in it for the money or for the fame and the glory and it leaves the people that just can’t do anything else.”

“They don’t know how to do anything else, besides their art.”

Henderson is less optimistic for the future, especially during the pandemic. 

When asked where the community is going to gather now that Logan’s is closed, Henderson  said, “for the foreseeable future, nowhere.” 

“What a lot of people just don’t seem to understand is that [COVID-19] is a complete sea change … the performance area of Logan’s was a small, hard, square, airless room, crammed with people throwing themselves around like maniacs, barely clothed. It’s an absolute nightmare! If you want to spread COVID-19 you couldn’t do it a better way.”

Electric Empress playing at Logans Pub, Victoria, BC, over a number of years.
Electric Empress playing at Logans Pub, Victoria, BC . Photo by Tristan Shouldice.

For live shows and lost venues like Logan’s, Henderson says “it’s the end of an era.”

“That’s such a cliche, I know,” he adds. “But it’s the beginning of another era … we’re going to have to settle for some nostalgia for a while.” 

But Henderson is thankful for the time he did have at the venue and working with live music pre-COVID-19. 

“It was a terrific run. I mean I never thought I’d work there 20 years … I think people have to think in retrospect, it lasted far longer than it had any right to … COVID-19 is going to change everything, and it’s going to be very difficult. Well, it’ll be impossible I think to go back to the old days. I think even if COVID-19 is completely conquered.” 

Mark answered the question quite differently. When asked to respond generally to the closing of the pub she let out an ear shattering, “yeeEEAAAAAAH” into the phone: a common energetic cry from one of the Tavern’s regulars named Stan. Where Kaup and Henderson may disagree on the finer details of what is next, Mark showed that the energy and excitement of the regulars that helped make the pub what it was are very much still alive.

In the closing comments of his interview, Kaup extended his thanks to all those that made the Tavern of the Damned what it was.

“We couldn’t have done it without [the patrons], and we couldn’t have done it without the people who filled that building. That was the spirit of it. Over the 23 years of time, every employee that had worked there, every band that had come through, every regular, the people that had their wedding receptions there…we couldn’t have done it without the community. It would have been nothing without the community, they’re the ones that really made it.”

And for all those sad about the loss of yet another great music venue here in Victoria, Henderson had this to say, “It seems like a really gloomy, terrible time. Music will prevail; it will come out of this better; it will change, but we have no choice it has to. And people will grumble, and people will bitch, but it will ultimately morph into something better.” 

“It was a pirate ship. It was like we had taken over a fleet from the owners,” says Kaup.“It was the people who decide, or the pirates on the pirate ship … right now we’re like pirates without a ship … and there’s nothing we can do about it. We didn’t own the ship we were on.”

The ship’s next anchorage is unknown, but one thing’s for sure — the pirates aren’t going anywhere.