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Old 04-27-2004, 02:20 PM   #1 (permalink)
hovering in the distance
Location: the land of milk and honey
up in smoke :(


Fire guts city's famous 'pot block'
Police believe three-alarm blaze was deliberately set in dumpster

John Mackie
Vancouver Sun

Monday, April 26, 2004

Firefighters battle a blaze that destroyed buildings in the 300 Block of West Hastings Sunday.
CREDIT: Peter Battistoni, Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER - Vancouver's world-renowned "pot block" was engulfed in smoke Sunday morning as fire destroyed a significant piece of the city's heritage.

The three-alarm fire raged through a two-storey building at 311-317 West Hastings, gutting the Blunt Brothers, a marijuana-oriented cafe that billed itself as "a respectable joint." Smoke from the blaze on the edge of Gastown could be seen as far away as White Rock.

Vintage clothing store Cabbages and Kinx was also destroyed, as was Spartacus Books, a long-standing left-wing bookstore.

The B.C. Marijuana Party headquarters and bookstore are located next door at 307 West Hastings, a building that suffered major smoke and water damage. Other pot-oriented businesses were located on the upper floors of the building.

Capt. Rob Jones-Cook of the Vancouver fire department said initial reports were that the fire started about 6:30 a.m. in a dumpster in the back lane behind the buildings. It quickly spread to two more dumpsters and then to the rear of 311 West Hastings.

"I will not say it's arson, but it could be a suspicious fire," said Jones-Cook.

There were 11 fire trucks on the scene and more than 50 firefighters, and the fire was contained well before noon. The firefighters found a small marijuana-growing operation in one of structures.

The 300 block of Hastings has achieved international renown in the past few years because of all the marijuana-oriented businesses there. Pot tourists showed up by the thousands to smoke a joint in North America's only pot cafes, the Blunt Brothers and the New Amsterdam (which recently closed). Even comedian Tommy Chong came to Blunt Brothers to smoke a joint.

"You'd see people from all over the world that would make their way there to check it out and get their pictures taken in front of the signs and stuff," said Steve Lippold, owner of Cabbages and Kinx. "It was on certain people's lists of tourist places to visit."

The future of the pot block depends on the damage to 307 West Hastings. Pot guru Marc Emery hopes the damage to the Marijuana party headquarters and bookstore isn't too severe and that it can reopen quickly. He thinks a logical place for Blunt Brothers to move would be into the New Amsterdam storefront.

Emery didn't hold out much hope for the upstairs businesses, however. He said at the height of the fire, smoke was billowing out the upstairs windows of the three-storey building, which would make for a lot of smoke damage.

Emery said the Marijuana party headquarters/store costs $5,500 a month to rent. He feared damages of $20,000 to $40,000 in merchandise. The store wasn't insured.

"No one insures businesses with the name Marijuana in it, in my experience," said Emery.

Cabbages and Kinx was insured. Lippold feels he may have lost $80,000 to $100,000 in stock, plus store fixtures, computers and the like. Ironically, he had been thinking of selling the business, which he has run for 31 years.

Lippold was alerted at 6:30 a.m. by his alarm company and arrived on the scene just as fire trucks were pulling up.

"I went in the alley and there was a couple of dazed looking people, I guess artists who had been living in garrets above," he said.

"The alley seemed to be on fire, the dumpsters and such. There was fire coming out of the boiler room downstairs, and I went around front and the fire was well in motion at that point."

Jones-Cook said there were no reports of injuries at the scene.

The businesses were located in a pair of 1890s brick buildings that are on Vancouver's heritage register. The structure at 307 West Hastings is known as the Rogers building, and was built in 1898, the time of the Klondike goldrush.

Both buildings are relatively modest, but were in excellent shape and important because they were the first buildings built on their site.

"They are some of the earliest construction on that part of Hastings street," said heritage expert John Atkin.

"When Hastings street was put through, these were the first buildings built there. They're very early.

"The building that has major damage [311-317 West Hastings] is a wonderful building with an amazing sheet metal facade to it, lots of pressed tin. It was very rare in Vancouver because the original overscale pediment that sat on top of the building was still intact. Those are one of the first things to fall down in windstorms or whatever, and here it was intact."

The buildings also had heritage value because they were part of a row of century-old structures that was relatively intact and includes the Dominion Building, one of Vancouver's most beloved structures.

Atkin hopes the facades can be retained in any redevelopment scheme.

"It's like a set of teeth," said Atkin. "Once you start knocking one tooth out, suddenly it's the next tooth and then the next tooth and then your mouth looks like hell. If you do that to that block, which had such heritage integrity, it's going to be so bad."

The Vancouver Sun 2004

Damn, I wanted to got there next time I was in Vancouver.
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Old 04-27-2004, 02:38 PM   #2 (permalink)
With a mustache, the cool factor would be too much
Fremen's Avatar
Location: left side of my couch, East Texas
That's too bad.

I wonder how many people got a buzz.
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Old 04-27-2004, 02:43 PM   #3 (permalink)
is KING!
bparker805's Avatar
Location: On the path to Valhalla.
Wouldnt that have been a decent day to be a firefighter? I bet all the station cooks were cooking overtime after that call.
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Old 04-27-2004, 04:08 PM   #4 (permalink)
Free Mars!
feelgood's Avatar
Location: I dunno, there's white people around me saying "eh" all the time
I bet there was a undisclosed number of firefighters wandering around aimlessly...
Looking out the window, that's an act of war. Staring at my shoes, that's an act of war. Committing an act of war? Oh you better believe that's an act of war
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Old 04-27-2004, 04:51 PM   #5 (permalink)
on fire
animosity's Avatar
Location: Atlanta, GA
in other news...

local super markets were completely sold out of cheetos and icecream that evening...
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Old 04-28-2004, 05:11 AM   #6 (permalink)
it's jam
splck's Avatar
Location: Lowerainland BC
Re: up in smoke :(

Originally posted by moonstrucksoul

Damn, I wanted to got there next time I was in Vancouver.
There are still some stores in that area that are worth checking out.
nice line eh?

Last edited by splck; 04-28-2004 at 11:59 AM..
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Old 04-28-2004, 09:37 AM   #7 (permalink)
It's one of those times, while watching your business burn, when you really just have to stop, take a deep breath, and relax.

What a shame though...
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Old 04-29-2004, 12:55 AM   #8 (permalink)
west hastings??? isnt it all about the east hastings... LOL

theres been alot of fires lately.. ohwell
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Old 04-29-2004, 06:20 AM   #9 (permalink)
cchris's Avatar
Location: Sydney
Originally posted by animosity
in other news...

local super markets were completely sold out of cheetos and icecream that evening...

Good one.
There's a fine line between participation and mockery
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Old 04-29-2004, 08:33 AM   #10 (permalink)
hovering in the distance
Location: the land of milk and honey
the tragedy of this is not just that a couple of 'pot' bars, but some really cool historical buildings in Vancouver burned. why does everybody just have to crack jokes?
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