Call it the Commercial, the Commy, Blues on Whyte—the longtime watering hole and renowned Edmonton venue for blues music is 100 years old this weekend, and the old girl plans to party.
The brick hotel, taking up a good chunk of Whyte Avenue between 103 and 104 St. has been called a biker bar, worn and rough around the edges, but its spruced-up front façade, pots of flowers, striking black awnings and new windows tell another story—this old gal that’s had some tender loving care.
Just ask Dr.Kevin Sisk, who has been taking a seat at the Commercial for some 40 years. The 61-year-old points to where the shuffleboard table used to be, and how five bucks used to pay for enough glasses of beer to cover the small round table. But mostly, Sisk said it’s the music and people that make the Commercial a special place.
“Long ago, the owner decided this place should be a showcase for blues. I love it here. It’s home, and the staff treat me well,” said Sisk, who tends to avoid the busyness of Saturday nights, when Whyte Ave revelers are out in force.
General Manager Michael Purcell said the hotel too is booked solid on weekends, when “people go out dining, shopping and strolling in Old Strathcona, basically enjoying the entire avenue.”
Festivities marking the hotel’s centennial on Sunday, July 8 include a pancake breakfast, street performers and vendors tables, as well as beer gardens and two stages with 10 bands and non-stop music.
- The vintage neon Commercial Hotel sign was erected in the 1920s, and continues to be a landmark and beacon along the avenue
- Old-style sinks and wood banisters in the hotel remain true to the turn of the century architecture—rooms for some 100 guests continue to see renovations as the entire building is spruced up
- THE place for blues music in Edmonton, Blues on Whyte promotes local artists, afternoon jams and offers live music seven days a week