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Air Affair - Vancouver's Aviation-Themed Restaurant of the 1970s

[Air Affair Ad (small) 1977] 5 September 2003: In the mid to late 1970s, before I turned 10, I loved going with my parents to a restaurant called Air Affair, on Pender Street in downtown Vancouver. I was a kid, so I don't remember when it opened, or how long it was around, or even what the food was like. (Why would a restaurant be important for its food?) I loved it because it was so incredibly cool.

While digging around in boxes of old photos and magazines recently, I found the 1977 program for the Abbotsford Air Show—and even though the Air Show has been running ever since, I believe 1977 was the last time I attended. Anyway, on page 42 of the program, this ad for Air Affair appeared. (If you want to see a large-size version, just scroll down the page.)

It gives you a pretty good sense of why an eight-year-old boy would have liked it: the main room had huge mock hot-air balloons, waitresses dressed like stewardesses, and there were planes and other aviation paraphernalia everywhere. In the topmost photo (behind the balloons), you can see some windows looking down from the next floor. Those were from a series of themed rooms that looked like air-traffic control towers, with fake radar screens and lots of bleepy lights.

The rest of the decor was of its time: big wicker chairs, lots of dark wood, fireplaces. And it was quite dark, like so many other eateries in the '70s. (Another restaurant we went to regularly back then still puzzles me. It was called the Owl and the Oarsman, and was in the Centennial Pavilion on Burnaby Mountain, where Horizons restaurant has been for the past 15 years or so. But where Horizons has huge picture windows with a panoramic view of Vancouver, the North Shore mountains, and across to Vancouver Island, the Owl and the Oarsman followed the trend, and all the windows were shuttered to keep it dark. Yes, a restaurant on top of a mountain, with no view!)

I expect that Air Affair had been pretty expensive to set up, especially in its own building on a major downtown street, with huge floor space and lots of seating. Like other big theme restaurants in the city since then—the Hard Rock Cafe, Planet Hollywood, the Rainforest Cafe—it probably didn't bring in enough money for its size and shut down. But that's just speculation.

Still, to my young mind, it made no sense when I heard that we couldn't go there anymore. How could the coolest restaurant this city had ever known possibly go away? But it did, and I largely forgot about it, until now.

Also, I think Air Affair had fried cheese bread—it seemed every restaurant did in 1977. That was my favourite. Mmmm.

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[575 KB image - Air Affair Restaurant and Entertainment Complex. Within walking distance of downtown hotels. 5 rooms dedicated to the history of aviation. Children's menus available.]

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