Niche Wine & Art: Embracing the art scene

Before Niche Wine Art opened on Main Street, downtown Vancouver lacked a restaurant with a specific wine focus. Owner Leah Jackson named it so because she noticed the need for a small, intimate place to hang out and drink wine downtown.

The interior of Niche is cozy and elegant, with Tuscan-inspired colors, an abundance of local art and a gorgeous setup by the large front window displaying a chaise lounge, a piano and an upright bass. But what about the space does Jackson brag about?

“We have the nicest bathroom in Vancouver!” she quipped.

Art brings energy

Niche is nestled between Angst Gallery, an adjacent art gallery Jackson opened three years ago, and the Kiggins Theatre. Jackson said the ongoing resurgence of downtown seems connected to the art scene, so the gallery and wine bar go hand in hand.

“I’ve been watching for quite some time and the energy feels better,” she said. “It feels like people are getting excited about Vancouver.”

The way Jackson sees it, venues like art galleries provide free, family-friendly activity and accessibility to local work, supplementing other things that are happening downtown.

In the case of Niche Wine Art, Jackson said downtown Vancouver’s growth has business booming.

“It’s surpassed my expectations,” said Jackson, adding that it did take a while for people to notice Niche after dark, since downtown seems to quiet down a bit in the evenings. However, she said the bar saw a significant increase in business and a new crop of customers when it began staying open an hour later.

Jackson’s theory is that family-oriented people, for example, may want to eat dinner at home, put their kids to bed and then come out for a drink. If an establishment is only open until 9, it’s unlikely to attract that customer, but staying open until 10 or so ensures sufficient unwinding time.

Calling all Kiggins customers

According to Jackson, ending up next to the Kiggins Theatre was a happy coincidence. The theater was actually closed when Niche opened its doors, but Jackson had hoped it would reopen.

“I thought it [Kiggins reopening] would be fabulous,” she said.

Since the Kiggins reopened in September of last year, Jackson said it’s been difficult to determine whether or not the two affect one another’s business. Most moviegoers, she said, don’t know the wine bar exists yet. It can also depend on what’s playing on the big screen.

In the Community

An interesting event at Niche is a monthly multilingual poetry reading held by a poet laureate. Native speakers read their poem in their respective language and then in English. Jackson feels it important to support local poetry – and music – in addition to art.

For themonth of February, Niche is hosting a fundraiser for the School of Arts and Academics’ jazz band. The fundraiser features four special menu items with proceeds benefitting the band. Additionally, two jazz ensembles will play every Wednesday night at the bar. Jackson’s two teenage sons play in the ensembles.

Aside from the fundraising beats, Niche features live, local music every Saturday night.

“We have a lot of amazing musicians around here,” Jackson noted.

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