The new face of Nicky Zee’s

Lava Vodka Bar serves over 50 kinds of vodka (Cara Smith/AQ)

It was Friday night and Nicky Zee’s Nightclub looked dead. The balcony had no screaming smokers and the usual line-up of bare legs and heels was nowhere in sight.

The main floor of Nicky Zee’s went under reconstruction late summer and its opening as the Lava Vodka Bar was the last weekend of September. The reconstruction changed not only the layout of the bar, but the clientele as well.

“There’s a completely separate entrance. That’s why we use the back door,” said Amanda Thomas, a STU student who serves at the Lava Vodka Bar. “Their seeking a classier environment instead of the drunk free for all that happens upstairs.”

A sign was propped up in front of what used to be the downstairs patio. Stephen Lewis and the Big Band of One at the Lava Vodka Bar! Use the back entrance.

I walked down the alley and past the dumpster. I began questioning the existence of this bar when a door was kicked open and few people come out. I headed in.

The place no longer looked like the slimy pub I remembered. Fancy dimmed lights hung over modest tables. To the left of the entrance was a lounge. Bubbling lava lamps and couches line the brick walls as an electric fireplace hums.

“It’s a vodka bar so there’s over 50 different kinds of vodka here, but you can also get beers and rum and other kinds of drinks,” said Thomas.

She explained that the Lava Vodka Bar is trying to distinguish itself from the upstairs of the club, which remains the same dance club.

The one man band, Stephen Lewis, came back on stage but Lewis wasn’t alone. Alongside his loop pedals, keyboard and djembe drum stood live painter Sharon Epic.

A mix of funk, hip-hop, Latin, and video-game music escalated from Lewis as Epic twirled her brushes. A few people bunched up by the stage and started to dance.

Alex Green was one of the few people sitting down. He bopped his head to Lewis’ rendition of Bojangles. It was Green’s first time at the new bar.

“It’s nice in here, I like the underground feel,” said Green “For me, it’s a big improvement then what used to be here. The people here seem chill.”
I watched the paint swirl into colorful spirals as the music played on. When the set was over I spoke with Epic. I had seen her before at huge events and festivals and wondered what she was doing at this crowd of 15.

“I’m a good friend of Steven’s and I was in town, so I asked him if he wanted me to come down and paint him, but this place is pretty cool. It’s got major underground potential,” said Epic.

Epic took me outside to meet Lewis. He said he was contacted last minute to play the show.

“This place is definitely something different. It’s got a weird feel to it,” said Lewis.

Standing beside me was a few people saying they probably wouldn’t have checked out the Lava Vodka Bar if Vancouver’s indie-pop band Hey Ocean hadn’t played here last week.

“If they keep getting new and unique bands to play here then that would be unreal,” said Grant Carson, a STU student who was huddled in the alley with us.

“I think that what they’re trying do to with this place, like make it into a live music venue,” said Lewis.

“If they keep bringing in good acts,” Epic said while looking over at Lewis. “They’ll drag in a cool scene here.”

Poor Young Things and Tim Chaisson will be playing at the Lava Vodka Bar Nov 1.

For more information on upcoming shows and events at the Lava Vodka Bar, check out

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