Home > Uncategorized > Rediscovery of White Lunch Restaurant on Hastings

Rediscovery of White Lunch Restaurant on Hastings

In the next series of photos  Lani Russwurm, local DTES historian, rediscovers and looks into the renovation of a former White Lunch restaurant located at 124 West hastings by Abbott in Vancouver DTES.

 Please see Lani Russwurm’s photos and description of White Lunch also: http://www.flickr.com/photos/laniwurm/3387453625/ 










Background Information of White Lunch:

A number of White Lunch restaurants operated in the city. Other locations included 865 Granville, 737 West Pender, and 714 West Pender.

The White lunch name reflected a policy of serving and hiring only white people. The civic government of the 1930s reinforced racism in the culinary industry by passing a 1937 ordinance that prohibited white women from working in Chinatown. Whites believed they had a properly appointed place in the Darwinist order and needed to protect white women from “lascivious Orientals.” A delegation of 16 waitresses from 3 restaurants marched to City Hall on September 24, 1937 to protest the ordinance but the mayor refuse them a hearing. Restaurant proprietors had their licenses revoked if they failed to observe the civic ruling.

In 1939, white women were allowed to work in Chinese-owned restaurants that served only “English meals to English customers.” When Vancouver’s white society recognized China as an enemy and victim of the aggressor and an ally of democracy in WWII, racism against Chinese residents began to dissipate. Workers struck at all White Lunch locations on April 27, 1937, demanding higher wages and better working conditions. They won their strike when customers refused to cross the picket line.

Despite the victory, union employees continued to suffer harassment from management. In response to the intense victimization, the Hotel and Restaurant Employees’ Union placed the restaurant chain on its respected “unfair to labour” list. A high-turnover rate and fierce “union-busting” saw the workers fighting for a new contract within six months.

Photo from a White Lunch branch


and a beautifully toned Fred Herzog (the photo, not the man) from 1959 is here

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Grace
    April 1, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    April, this is fascinating — and disconcerting. How far we’ve come since then, in so many ways. And not in others.

    I haven’t been to your site before. You are a trove of information about the DTES! I look forward to reading/watching more.

  2. April 3, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    That’s awesome!

  3. carl macdonald
    June 9, 2009 at 6:31 am

    There was also a White Lunch on E. Hastings beside the Lux theatre.

  4. julie
    July 11, 2009 at 8:13 am

    Hi I just came across a tea spoon with “white lunch” Stamped into it–Thought it was pretty cool so I thought I would research–Which led to this site–Glad I found it–Who knew there was so much racisim in Vancouver at one time!

    • Joe
      October 31, 2009 at 4:50 pm


      I just came across a spoon from the ‘lunch’ as well. I am a Victoria boy, but as a Rand Holmes fan, his comic with the ‘White Lunch’ cover’ is one of my favourites. What a trip to see it re-open. Come over for breakfast.

  5. ahalivestream
    July 11, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    Hi Julie 🙂

    Thanks for visiting us 🙂 We are glad you found our site! Yes, Vancouver has had much racism in its past.

    We at AHA Media are striving to provide a new resource site about the Vancouver Downtown Eastside

  6. Tom Whalley
    November 19, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    I have a childhood memory of murals depicting BC history on the walls of the White Lunch in the 100 block Hastings across from Woodwards. Is this my imagination or is there documentary evidence of such?

    • November 22, 2009 at 11:02 pm

      Hi Tom!

      Thanks for your comment 🙂 I will refer this question to Lani Russwurm – Local DTES historian.

    • Terry
      February 14, 2010 at 4:03 am

      Tom Whalley :I have a childhood memory of murals depicting BC history on the walls of the White Lunch in the 100 block Hastings across from Woodwards. Is this my imagination or is there documentary evidence of such?

      My dad tells me the murals were painted by Pete Thursby. He worked with him at the Province newpaper in the late 40’s and 50’s where Pete was an artist.

  7. Emmet Tohill
    December 8, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    I have childhood memories of the murals on the white lunch walls ‘What ever happen to them?

  8. February 3, 2010 at 12:19 am

    I usually don’t normally post on many Blogs, still I just has to say thank you… keep up the amazing work. Ok regrettably its time to get to school.

  9. November 13, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    The rare dinner out when I was a kid in north van was a trip to the White Lunch. Might have been my first exposure to art – I remember asking questions about the murals. I’d love to see a reproduction of these if wsomeone knows where they’re “saved” in cyberspace. Mary

    • November 14, 2010 at 11:21 am

      Hi Mary,

      We’re not sure but we will ask around for you 🙂

      Thanks so much!

    • Terry
      November 14, 2010 at 12:37 pm

      Try researching the artist here at this link from the Vancouver public library. He painted the murals.


      Thursby, F. Peter, fl.1940’s


  10. Richard
    February 11, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    My mother managed White Lunch Restarants during the 1950’s and 60’s. She started at the Hastings location and moved to the restarant in the basement of the Rogers Building on Granville. Apparently the Hastings location was pretty rough back then although the staff was multi-cultural by that time. She describes how the Chinese cooks set her straight on a number of things shortly after she started as a young hostess.
    She wound up managing Clancey’s Skydiner on Theatre Row, which had an airplane theme.
    There was an aircraft tail mounted on the facade above the entry, and inside there was a moving mural that could be viewed through aircraft-type windows in each booth.

  11. May 17, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Thanks for the history lesson. I grew up in the late fifties and sixties in Vancouver. I sure remember those amazing, revolving, cup and saucer neon signs. Always wondered about the name. Wow! I thought that sort of thing only happened in the deep south. Just one more thing to change my image of my home town.

  12. anna
    October 23, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    Friday night was grocery shopping night on Woodward’s food floor and we usually had supper in thier cafeteria or the White Lunch across the street. I remember those murals and the ones in another White Lunch, they were of West coast Native legends. Waiting for my Dad to meet us on the “chairs” in Woodwards, the smell of coffee roasting from somewhere downtown, the big neon W, busses losing thier connections to the overhead wires at Main and Hastings, the Christmas windows in Eaton’s and Woodward’s. The BA sign that turned and could be seen all the way out in Burnaby, exotic trips onto Pender street to look at the Chinese merchandise. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s of Vancouver. How I would love to walk again on those streets in those years as I am now. I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to take as many pictures as I would like to be able to. Maybe those street photographers that took your picture have some negatives still?

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