In the parking lot behind the Ramada hotel on a recent Saturday night, you can hear the latin beats pumping from Whitehorse’s newest night club.
Inside, a dozen or so Yukon couples dance while the DJ spins upbeat contemporary tracks.
It’s salsa night at Club 867.
Many of the dancers have taken lessons together. At one point they form a circle and perform a choreographed routine. Their unison hand claps give them away to the rest of the partiers.
Groups of friends take breaks from the dance floor and sip beer and cocktails at the tables scattered through the expansive space.
For club owner Yvonne Benoit, managing a Whitehorse nightclub is a dream come true.
“I’ve always wanted to own some sort of establishment like this,” she said in an interview last week.
“I’m very outgoing. I’m a people person. I love meeting people, and I think it kind of suits me very well.”
Benoit launched Club 867, attached to the Ramada hotel, about three months ago.
She’s worked in bars and clubs before, but this is her first try at running her own place, she said.
“It’s been like swimming uphill, but we’re hitting some waterfalls now, so it’s going to be good.”
Benoit is originally from Newfoundland, but moved to Faro as a teenager.
Since then she’s moved between Faro and Whitehorse, with a couple of stints Outside.
“I always come back here. I always come back here, and I’m not going anywhere now.”
Before becoming a bar owner and manager, Benoit has been a full-time mom for about three years, she said. And before that she worked in home care with the Yukon government.
She had been saving for a while to start her own club, she said.
But her plans got a boost from an unexpected source.
Her mom was one of eight coworkers in Faro who split a $25-million Lotto Max jackpot a little more than a year ago.
“Luckily she was there to make my dream even bigger,” said Benoit.
“It wouldn’t have been this big. We were thinking of doing something, like a smaller lounge or something.
“She’s always helped me my whole life, and she’s pretty amazing.”
Benoit hopes to offer a little something for everyone at the club, she said.
The focus so far has been on promoting local musicians and fundraising for good causes.
Recently the club hosted a fundraiser for the Whitehorse Food Bank, featuring a Pink Floyd tribute band called Pigs on a Wing.
The venue also saw a CD release party for ukelele-fronted indie band Ukes of Hazard, and has hosted Whitehorse rockers the Midnight Sons regularly.
DJKJ makes occasional appearances to spin the top-40 hits that the kids like to dance to.
The best thing about running Club 867 is meeting new people and being able to give back to the community, said Benoit.
“There’s always new faces coming through here, because there’s always something different going on here,” she said.
“I’m all for helping everybody out.”
One of the hurdles has been making a big space feel full, she said.
“If there’s 50 people in here and someone walks in here, it doesn’t seem like there’s that much going on in here. If you walk into Lizards and there’s 50, 60 people in there, it looks kind of busy, right? People want to go where it looks kind of busy. So we’re working on that right now.”
Plans include turning a lounge space at the back of the bar into a games room.
Benoit has a pool table, foosball tables and big screen TVs on the way, she said.
“It takes time to get where we are, and we’re not even close to where we want to be,” she said.
She’s also eyeing expanded hours for the club.
Now, it’s only open Thursday through Saturday evenings, but the plan is to be open seven days a week, including a weekday happy hour from 4-7 with an appie menu from Ricky’s.
Getting the club off the ground hasn’t always been easy, but Benoit wouldn’t have it any other way, she said.
“It’s been an uphill battle, but I’m not going anywhere else but up.”
Contact Jacqueline Ronson at