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OPINION: Fun past 9pm? Burnaby needs a better nightlife scene

Burnaby’s nightlife scene doesn’t really exist as there are a limited number of things to do in the city past 9pm, and that needs to change.

Burnaby nightlife

While The Amazing Brentwood and Station Square are growing hubs in the city, they lack a vibrant nightlife and entertainment scene. (The Amazing Brentwood/ Station Square)

What’s there to do on a Friday or Saturday night in Burnaby?

You may head out to dinner at the new restaurants at The Amazing Brentwood or Station Square or hit up one of the eateries in the Heights. Maybe you don’t want to put too much thought into it, and decide on a chain restaurant like Earls or Cactus Club.

Then, you might keep the night going and try your hand at the arcade games at The Rec Room; maybe you catch a movie at one of the city’s two movie theatres; or go bowling at Revs.

But then the night probably comes to an end—because the truth is, Burnaby’s nightlife scene doesn’t really exist as there are a limited number of things to do in the city past 9pm, aside from getting dinner or drinks at a local restaurant.

The term “nightlife” may ring up images of loud and crowded nightclubs and bars, but let's be honest, these spaces aren't everyone's cup of tea (including someone in their 30s like me, who prefers places where I can actually converse with friends without my voice being drowned out by the sounds of the thumping bass).

A vibrant nightlife can and should consist of many different things, like comedy shows, live music, art shows, theatre productions, seasonal night markets and festivals, and attractions and eateries that are open later to the public.

And the lack of these elements in Burnaby probably leads most folks to head out to Downtown Vancouver, the breweries district in Port Moody, or the Shipyards in North Vancouver for some better nightlife experiences.

Burnaby is becoming a more dynamic city and it is also experiencing immense growth and development.

In November 2022, the city announced that it issued 1,133 development permits worth $2.1 billion within the year, which is almost double the $1.01 billion value of the 1,092 permits issued in 2021.

Burnaby is also one of the fastest-growing major municipalities in the country, according to the 2021 Census, as 16,370 new residents arrived between 2016 and 2021.

The city’s four town centres (Brentwood, Edmonds, Lougheed, and Metrotown) are drastically changing and have almost become mini-cities within Burnaby as a whole.

With more people, more development, and overall growth, the city needs to be thinking beyond the buildings and how it can foster fun and connection for the people who live here.

These sentiments were shared in a recent discussion prompted by a Burnaby Reddit post, as one user asked, “Where do the 20-somethings hang out in Burnaby/ [the] North Burnaby Area?”

The question resulted in over 60 comments from folks (who I am assuming are not just 20-somethings) mostly agreeing that we do indeed live in a sleepy city, and highlighting the gaping holes in our nightlife scene.

“Omg yes. There is absolutely nothing here and has been this way [for] over a decade,” said one commenter.

“I have been here a year and a half and we go… to Vancouver,” said another.

After reading this, the Beacon also put out its own callout on Instagram, asking what Burnaby needs to create a more fun and inclusive nightlife for folks of all ages to enjoy.

Some responses included: live music; independent pubs and bars that are not part of chain eateries; venues for shows; lounges; better and bigger patios; places to go dancing; micro-breweries; and late-night eateries, bars, bookstores, and cafes that can also serve as venues for more intimate music and art shows.

There has been some talk at the municipal level about how to achieve this. Before the October 2022 municipal election, the Burnaby Citizen’s Association (BCA) made an election campaign promise to explore the creation of a brewery district and artists’ district within the next decade.

But 10 years is a ways away, and there have got to be ways to kickstart this process sooner than later.

So, at the Beacon, we’re going to try and do just that by at least starting a conversation. Over the next few weeks, my colleague Srushti and I will take a deeper dive into how to build up Burnaby’s arts, culture, dining, and entertainment scenes into something that makes the city an exciting place to be—not just at night, but anytime—and invites folks to stay in the city for fun, instead of having to travel to other parts of Metro Vancouver.

We’ll be exploring how different factors like public spaces and planning, arts, culture, entertainment, and dining, all come into play to create spaces that foster community connection and engagement beyond 9pm.

Of course, we want to hear your thoughts as well.

Do you have memories of Burnaby having a nightlife scene at one point? What elements would you like to see included if Burnaby had a nightlife now?

Let us know here, and stay tuned for more coverage on this topic.