In virtually every Western movie, there’s the inevitable confrontation in the town saloon. As a western prairie town, there’s little doubt Calgary was home to a saloon when its first neighbourhood, Inglewood, was settled in 1875. Indeed, the area was first known as Brewery Flats. 

“Alberta Hotel under construction, Calgary, Alberta.”, 1888-12-20, (CU1127189) by Ross, Alexander J.. Courtesy of Libraries and Cultural Resources Digital Collections, University of Calgary.

The 1890 ltalianate-style Alberta Hotel building boasted the longest bar between Winnipeg and Vancouver. But it’s the King (Eddy) Edward that lasted, opening in 1905 until it closed 99 years later as Calgary’s longest operating bar. In 2018, it resumed its storied place in the city’s nightlife as part of the National Music Centre. 

“Bar at King Edward Hotel, Calgary, Alberta.”, 1910, (CU178910) by Unknown. Courtesy of Libraries and Cultural Resources Digital Collections, University of Calgary.

There’s the Palliser Hotel, which opened in 1914 and entertained Calgarians in its Oak Room (now remodelled). After prohibition ended in Alberta in 1924, the Palliser was the first to receive a liquor licence. Also opened in 1914 was the (in)famous St. Louis Hotel.

Another city establishment is Hy’s Steakhouse, Calgary’s oldest restaurant. Hy Aisenstate, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, opened it in 1955. He had started law school at UBC but was forced into entrepreneurship due to a family crisis. The current iteration opened in 2014.  

Caesar’s Steak House, 512 4 Ave SW. Calgary, 2023. Photo courtesy of Anthony Imbrogno.

Let’s not forget Caesar’s Steak House, part of local folklore. It opened in 1972 because Greek immigrant Con Giannoulis wanted to own a restaurant and the building housing it. It’s said the Caesar cocktail was popularized here, though it was perfected and named in 1969 at the Calgary Inn (now the Westin) by Italian bartender Walter Chell. Nevertheless, who doesn’t want a Caesar at Caesar’s?

Then there’s more recent but no less important places, like Bottlescrew Bill’s Pub, opened in 1985 by the Allan family in the old Calgary Press Club site, and Kensington Pub (K-Pub), established in 1982 in a residence from 1911.

“Bartender Dick Bellamy serving drinks at the Calgary Press Club,” 1969, Bill Onions Fonds, City of Calgary Archives, Item CalA 2011-006-0880

Kensington Pub, 207 10A St NW. Calgary, 2023. Photo courtesy of Anthony Imbrogno.

Nowadays, several establishments occupy the buildings and residences of the city’s past. There’s Bank & Baron, located in the Bank of Nova Scotia building built in 1930, and Civic Tavern, operating in a 1905 Queen Anne Revival-style home. Next time you’re heading out on the town, keep an eye out for some of Calgary’s heritage.

Civic Tavern, 213 12 Ave SW. Calgary, 2023. Photo courtesy of Anthony Imbrogno.

– Anthony Imbrogno is a volunteer with The Calgary Heritage Initiative Society/Heritage Inspires YYC

– All copyright images cannot be shared without prior permission