NOT a Condo Yet!!The Penthouse’s music venue is a legendary hidden gem

Masthead - The Penthouse

Walk under the iconic marquee of The Penthouse nightclub on Seymour Street and into the venue. Head up the stairs, where you’ll see the main room set up with poles and booths for exotic dancers—don’t stop here, though (at least, not tonight). Instead, take the stairs up another level. Here, you’ll encounter an unassuming slice of Vancouver music history.
In the corner sits an original Baby Grand piano from 1939. There’s a small stage where go-go dancers used to perform, along with many local and touring musicians. A restaurant called the Steak Loft (amazing name) used to occupy the back.The Penthouse itself is a legendary business in Vancouver, and is seemingly one of the few historical buildings that this city hasn’t turned into condos yet. The structure itself dates back to 1939, though The Penthouse as we know it opened in 1947 by four Filippone brothers: Joe, Ross, Mickey, and Jimmy. It quickly became the place to be for those who liked to have a good time, bringing food, entertainment, and (illegal) alcohol together under one roof. Famous folks like Frank Sinatra and Errol Flynn were known to stop by when they were in town. 
The history of The Penthouse itself is well documented. There’s a book: Liquor, Lust, and the Law, by local historian Aaron Chapman. There’s also a monthly tour, Secrets Of The Penthouse, run by Forbidden Vancouver (it’s a steal of a deal: $70 gets you the hour-long tour, led by current Penthouse owner Danny Filippone and Chapman, along with a live jazz show and a comforting spaghetti dinner using Filippone’s mother’s meatballs recipe—plus a free pass to come back to The Penthouse another night). Grant MacDonald, a former police officer who used to raid The Penthouse in the prohibition days, often joins as well.
“I’m pretty sure he used to arrest my dad,” Filippone says of MacDonald on a recent tour, “and now we’re golf buddies.”A little later on, 60-year-old Filippone stands on the upper-level theatre’s small stage and fights back tears. His sister is in the audience, he tells the group, and she has been battling brain cancer for many years—but they recently found out that she’s in remission. The gathered guests erupt into applause as the jazz band starts to play.The Penthouse of today is indeed a strip club, but it’s also still a music venue, and it might be the city’s shiniest hidden gem. Comfortably seating around 50 people, the space, dubbed Tyrant Studios, is run by Daniel Deorksen of Seven Tyrants Theatre Society. It’s modest in decor, but there’s a full-service bar at the back—and, somehow, the acoustics are amazing. Curated live shows—a mix of music, dance, and comedy—happen here most Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, giving the space new life while nodding to its storied legacy.
“It could be the low ceilings, it could be the carpet,” says Deorksen of the space’s crystal-clear musical sound. “I haven’t quite figured it out yet.”
Maybe it is one of those things. Or maybe there is just some sort of ghostly magic here left over from the glory days. In the end, it doesn’t really matter; what matters is that the venue is still going strong in a city that loves to buff away its past.