Karina Leveque’s family has owned businesses in Squamish for three generations. Her great-grandfather, among the first loggers to brave the forests, was well known for throwing lively barn parties. In line with family tradition, Leveque is the owner and head bartender of The Knotty Burl – one of the best places to experience nightlife in Squamish.
If you want to put on those dancing pants or just do something different, this is the place. “Our prices are a lot cheaper than Vancouver with smaller shows and a smaller venue,” she says.
Born from a genuine desire to meet the after-dark needs of a growing community, Leveque is no stranger to the late-night business, having owned the Ruddy Duck Bar and Grill across the street years prior.
“We don’t just wanna be a nightclub. We want to be a meeting spot,” she says.
Jose and Kevin Cunha, two local artists who own a construction company in town, built the refined downtown space with their bare hands. They previously created floats for Burning Man and Leveque says the designs just “flowed out.” Most of the materials were recycled, including 90 per cent of the wood.
Leveque brings in bands and DJs from all over the world, like Mexico City or Prague. But, dancing isn’t all there is to do.
“It’s not just a party spot. We are really trying to showcase talent and show people something they haven’t seen before,” she says. Once a month, you can catch either comedy or a burlesque show in an intimate setting with candlelit tables.
If you’ve had a long day outdoors, you might just want to kick back with a beer. Then, Backcountry Brewing is the answer. A new locals’ favourite, the tables are communal and the vibe is somewhat rustic. Families are welcome, and the staff is open and engaging.
None of their beers are filtered and “all are true to form,” says Marc Roberts, part owner, and craft brew industry veteran. And, if you’re hungry, the pizza is the most popular thing on the menu, highlighting seasonal and often local ingredients.
“It’s not just beer... it’s the atmosphere too,” says Roberts. “You can meet old friends and make some new ones at the same time.”
Roberts was inspired to open this year and saw an up-and-coming craft beer scene in Squamish. There are taps on rotation and the brewery boasts over 30 styles of beers and counting.
Other notable places for a brew include A-Frame Brewing, Howe Sound Brew Pub or The Watershed Grill, a popular hangout for both sweaty construction workers and tired mountain bikers and it has screens for the game. Or there is The Copper Coil Still & Grill downtown, where live music jams on certain nights.
If just having a brew doesn’t satisfy you, shimmy down to the craft cocktail spotlight of Squamish, Gillespie’s Fine Spirits. The sound of the saxophone belting out of a record player will greet you at the door of what looks like a warehouse. It’s not.
The 1920s-inspired room is cozy and dimly lit, with a provocative menu full of one hundred per cent craft cocktails. Sometimes it can echo with the sound of warm conversation and other nights it may be quieter, offering a place to unwind. Everything is made in-house.
“The gin I fell in love with, it’s amazing. I drink it by itself. It’s hard to find a gin you can drink by itself,” says Chris Ward, the only full-time bartender. He says he quit what he thought would be his perfect job to travel the world and bartend.
He is proud to create a new cocktail every week, using fresh ingredients like blackberries from the shrub outside. “We do a wheat-based vodka, gin, raspberry gin, limoncello and aphrodisiac liqueur,” he adds.
There are three stills tucked away behind the sitting room, but only one is in use at a time. All were built by owner John McLellan, says Ward. Because they operate under the B.C. craft license, they only source and sell within the province.
“People want a nice little warm place where they can have a couple cocktails and desserts,” explains Ward. “We’re the only people doing what we do in town.”