Tonight I was invited down to the “Rocky Mountaineer Station” for the 12th annual “Golden Owl Awards”, an award dedicated to the hospitality industry.

Its origins are with the “Vancouver Nightlife Awards”, starting in 2004. From there it steadily grew to become “the most anticipated industry event in Vancouver”, (as taken from their website). And in 2016, it evolved into what it is today, “The Golden Owl Awards”, highlighting the best of Vancouver’s hospitality industry. The award allows the industry leaders and trailblazers to recognize one another through a night of heavy drinking and playful poking of fun towards one another. It also brings together many of Vancouver’s hospitality owners, managers, and staff; under one roof for a dressed up and festive evening.

The Golden Owl Hospitality Awards winners are voted on by both public and industry panel voters. Public voters represent a 40% weight and the industry panel has as 60% weigh in. Industry Panelists are not allowed to vote in any categories that are in a conflict of interest with. This panel was first brought in for the 2012 showcase, after they felt it was needed to curb the “popularity” vote. Having a panel that determines each winner with a 60% weight curbs the ability for nominees to campaign. Therefore those who win do so because they focus on being the best at their jobs, rather than campaigning for votes from the public.

The rules to being nominated are as follows. (All taken from their official Golden Owl website)

  • All establishments must have been open for at least ONE year, or if they have moved into a new establishment, their previous establishment under the same name must have been open for at least ONE year, EXCEPT for Best New Destination.
  • Best New Destination must have opened between September 15, 2018 and September 14, 2019
  • All establishments or businesses must be located within the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD).
  • All Events must have taken place between September 15, 2018 and September 19, 2018
  • All Managers, Bar Personalities and Breakout Artist of the Year must live within the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD), and Artists must have performed at least three (3) times within the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD).
  • Managers and Bar Personalities must have employed between September 15, 2018 and September 14, 2019
  • Social Event of the Year is not a music based festival or based around a band, DJ or a group of entertainers and had a minimum attendance of 750 people.
  • DJ Event of the Year is an actual DJ performance, not an overall music festival, though the DJ performance can have taken place at a music festival, night club, or other venue.
  • All establishment nominees in the following categories: Best Late Night Lounge, Best Hotel Lounge and Best Pub must serve food, beer and liquor.
    Best Atmosphere includes restaurants, lounges, pubs, brewery tasting lounges and serves food and/or beer and liquor.
  • Best New Destination includes restaurants, brewery tasting lounges, hotel lounges and nightclubs.
  • Best Subculture Venue has a focus on culture, be it music, food or beyond.
  • Best Live Music Venue can be a multi-function venue, but has a primary focus of booking live music acts to perform that serves beer and/or liquor.
  • Best Pub does not charge a cover for entry except for special events.

Guests and nominates are invited into the open space to mix and mingle before the award show. The red carpet is rolled out and attendees in their glitziest finery are photographed against a back drop of sponsors.

Art work is on display and there are corners and high top tables for guests to linger at. Event mascots, the “Owlets” greet guests and pose for photos, in light up masks and golden body suits.

Deeper inside the open space with its valeted ceilings and sky high windows, guests are able to roam the room freely. There are a handful of cash bars and liquor brands offering samples to help you loosen up and to set the mood. Take a shot of “Ole Smoky Tennessee moonshine”, try Nude’s latest low calorie drink, or mix Red Bull’s newest seasonal flavour into a cocktail with a help yourself toppings bar.

To mark the occasion a photo booth allowed you to take a photo and customize its frame.

And as VIPs we were given access to the VIP lounge that included coat check, and booths to sample from drink tickets. Behind the partition local beer and spirit companies traded tasters in a plastic reusable cups for vouchers; like “Phillips Brewing” and “Long Table Distillery”.

There was also a seating area with geometric furnishings to linger on. When time, we all gathered before the stage for the main event. Our emcee of the night began by poking fun at the industry’s stereotypes, and followed it up with the commemoration of establishments that have closed down to big disappointment this year.

Then one by one all the categories, their nominees, and winners were declared by a host of presenters. Winners walked to the stage to receive their wooden plaque, and say a few words. And when the show was done everyone piled into party buses to continue the festivities and celebrations well into the night, downtown. I wasn’t able to linger all that much longer, as it was a Monday and I had work the next day. But for the industry and many tonight, this Monday evening was the lead in, into their weekend.

The following is a recap of the award winners and the runner ups. But for more on how you can vote for next year’s nominees, and may be even attend 2020’s gala night, visit their website at https://www.goldenowlawards.com/

BEST ATMOSPHERE
The Parlour
Runner Up: Como Taperia

BEST HOTEL LOUNGE
The Lobby Lounge – Fairmont Pacific Rim
Runner Up: Reflections – Rosewood Hotel Georgia

BEST PUB
Alibi Room
Runner Up: The Blackbird Public House

BEST BARTENDING PERSONALITY
Katie Ingram – Elisa
Runner Up: Robyn Gray – Rosewood Hotel Georgia

BEST LATE NIGHT LOUNGE
The Keefer
Runner Up: Granville Room

BEST SUBCULTURE VENUE
Open Studios
Runner Up: The Beaumont Studios

BEST LIVE MUSIC VENUE
The Commodore Ballroom
Runner Up: Fortune Sound Club

BEST NEW DESTINATION
Hotel Belmont
Runner Up: Como Taperia

MANAGER OF THE YEAR
James Langford-Smith – Kissa Tanto
Runner Up: Geordie Howes – Fortune

NIGHTCLUB OF THE YEAR
Fortune Sound Club
Runner Up: Hello Goodbye

BREAKOUT ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Manila Grey
Runner Up: JUNK!

DJ EVENT OF THE YEAR
Skratch Bastid – Bastid’s BBQ
Runner Up: Skrillex – Contact

SOCIAL EVENT OF THE YEAR
Vancouver Craft Beer Week
Runner Up: Deighton Cup

BEST PATIO EXPERIENCE
Reflections – The Garden Terrace
Runner Up: The Local Gastown

BEST DISTILLERY EXPERIENCE
Long Table Distillery
Runner Up: Sons of Vancouver Distillery

BEST SERVICE EXPERIENCE
Chambar
Runner Up: Bao Bei

BEST COMEDY EXPERIENCE
Yuk Yuks
Runner Up: Sunday Service Fox Cabaret

BEST FOOD EXPERIENCE
Download Chicken Shack
Runner Up: Como Taperia

BEST COCKTAIL EXPERIENCE
The Shameful Tiki Room
Runner Up: Keefer Bar

BEST BRUNCH EXPERIENCE
Medina
Runner Up: Jam Cafe Beatty Street

BEST BREWERY EXPERIENCE
Brassneck Brewery
Runner Up: Strathcona Beer Company

RESTAURANT GROUP OF THE YEAR
Toptable Restaurant Group
Runner Up: Kitchen Table Restaurants