The Westminster Tavern & Lounge, colloquially referred to as “The Pit”, is a bar comprised of two separate, but symbiotic parts: a tavern, known as the “Snake Pit”, and a lounge, referred to as the “Arm Pit.” Both of these lovable Pits are housed in the Westminster Hotel, a building which dates back to 1898 that has since been refurbished with a fresh layer of vibrant pink paint on its exterior. The paint job is perhaps one of the few alterations to the buildings original state. The walls of the interior are adorned with memorabilia no doubt collected over the sprawl of years in which The Pit has been in operation. Portraits of Klondikers and scenes from the Yukon’s past cover the plastered walls, illuminated by the dim twinkle of red and white Christmas lights which obstinately glow on despite the near day-round sunlight of the Yukon summer. The floors are certainly original, crooked and sloped after having had over a century of permafrost wreak havoc on their no doubt even-keeled beginnings. Needless to say, the feeling of inebriation sets in before having even wobbled your way to the nearest empty bar stool.
The beers border on frozen, the service is surly, and one feels as though they could toil away an entire afternoon eavesdropping and taking in the tales and ramblings of any one of the many colourful locals. On a recent Saturday afternoon, we took to Happy Hour (50 cents off a drink) and bellied up to a spicy Caesar and a bottle of Bud. Two seats down, a man in a reflector vest was prognosticating, likely having just come back from working a mining rig for weeks on end. “It’ll never be the same, up here, you know…” he muttered to the uninterested bartender, the disposition of whom was affirmed by the sign hanging behind their head: “BARTENDER NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR BAD ATTITUDE.” An older gentleman, aged in his 60s, was sporting a long white beard and what looked to be a rather sore and bloodied black eye, perhaps obtained via wayward kick of a midnight can-can dancer at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Gambling Hall just down the road.
Ask for a drink list and the bartender will point to a to a sign in the top left corner of the bar, white printer paper adorned with black bold letters which spell out “BEER $5, LIQUOR, $5.50,” and so on. The Pit thrives on its simplicity and its ever-faithful Happy Hour crowds. Non-locals are sincerely welcome, though might feel the need to explain themselves to any of the onlookers who visibly have not recognized you after having come in.
The Snake Pit is host to concerts every weekend, and was once named the best music venue in Canada by the Globe and Mail. Later in the evening, we returned to take in Iron Kingdom, a heavy metal outfit from Surrey, BC. After a heart pounding 30 and some odd minute intro, during which the band ambitiously and seamlessly linked four or five songs together, they finally paused for a breath just long enough to introduce themselves. “Hi everyone, I’m Chris,” the lead singer murmured, ever so quietly. Not a moment later, he launched the rest of his band into another seemingly unending tirade of Metal. Big hair, eye make up, and studded leather vest, Chris and his Iron Kingdom embodied the spirit of The Pit: true personality and charisma effortlessly showcased by not trying to be anything but yourself.