Social House owner Kaori Torigai poses for a photo at the bar in Whitehorse on Aug. 28. The venue will be shutting down for good after one last show on Aug. 31. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News) Social House owner Kaori Torigai poses for a photo at the bar in Whitehorse on Aug. 28, 2018. The venue will be shutting down for good after one last show on Aug. 31. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Whitehorse’s Social House bids adieu

Part bar, part concert and social events venue, the business is closing for good on Aug. 31.

It was the right idea in the wrong place.

On one hand, Whitehorse’s Social House had a leaky roof, crowded sidewalks next door that likely deterred potential customers from coming in, and indoor temperatures that were never just quite right in the depths of winter or the peak of summer, according to its owner Kaori Torigai.

But it was also the small intimate venue beloved by many a local musician that also had movie nights, hosted adult arts-and-crafts events and had a serendipitous deal with the restaurant next door to have fresh sushi delivered to customers’ tables.

In its short, just-more-than-a-year-long stint as part of the city’s arts and music scene, the Social House managed to carve a space and name out for itself, which is why, even with those challenges, it’s hard for Torigai to say goodbye.

But all good things must come to an end, and on Aug. 31, the venue-bar-gathering-spot will be going out with one final show by Whitehorse’s very own Prizefighter.

“You know what’s really funny is that, I think when I initially started, I was really hoping it would be more of a beer-tasting-and-craft-beer-type bar, but you very quickly realize that you can’t just bring in people with beer. There has to be something else to it,” Torigai said in an interview Aug. 27.

“…I think I had always envisioned having lots of events as well, but I think I thought the focus would be more on beer. But it ended up being much more on events, which was great. It worked out well. I think I was reasonably successful.”

But it was never quite successful enough — while the Social House drew in crowds, Torigai said they were never as large as the ones that showed up at other venues, and there were also issues with the building and location itself. The venue is part of a building that also houses Canadas Best Value Inn, and Torigai said that she and the hotel owner had “different priorities” on what that space should be.

“Leaking roofs was obviously one of the big issues that I had,” Torigai said. “The risk that exists because of that is fairly high, I think, and it wasn’t really being addressed as fully as I think it could be, and again I think I’m concerned about the health and safety of my workers and also people that come into the bar and that’s problematic for me.”

There were issues about the amount of noise coming from the bar as well, which Torigai said she tried to keep under control but which wasn’t always at a level that worked for the hotel.

“Even that level that I think is okay and reasonable is too loud for the hotel … It’s hard to function in a place like that,” she said, adding that she also thought that the groups of people that convene on the sidewalk outside the neighbouring 98 Hotel deterred potential customers from coming into the Social House.

(In a phone interview Aug. 28, Canadas Best Value Inn manager Ujjwal Sinha said that while there was noise that came from the Social House, it was to be expected from a bar and it didn’t impact to hotel’s operations. He also acknowledged that the roof leaks, but said that “it’s not a major issue” and that leaks are a challenge that any building with a flat roof faces, especially when snow accumulates in the winter and then melts. The hotel is looking for a new business to fill the space, Sinha added.)

Torigai said that all those factors, combined and gradually building up, were what ultimately led to her to decide to pull the plug, but it’s not all negative.

“I’m pretty grateful that I got the opportunity to try it and it was really fun, like, I can’t stress enough that I really enjoyed the social aspect,” she said. “I really enjoyed the fact that I got to listen to some really exception musicians of all genres in the bar. You learn a lot by running a business and I’ve never run a business before, so it’s an opportunity that’s not often provided, right? And I was kind of able to jump in.”

For musician Steve Toews, who’s the guitar player and singer for Prizefighter, the Social House’s impending closure will be a loss for Whitehorse’s live music scene.

“Personally, I loved the space at the Social House … I just really liked the compactness and it’s a lot more fun playing for a place that’s full than a great big place where people have too much room to move around,” he said in an interview Aug. 27, adding that he and his band, who had played at the venue a handful of times over the past year, “jumped” at the chance to perform on closing night.

“(The Social House) kind of replaced what’s been missing in Whitehorse for a very long time, a really nice scene where people can go and take in live music and have a delicious beverage with good friends,” Toews said.

“I think there’s no replacement for live music and the Social House is exactly the kind of place that this town (needs) and it’s really kind of sad that she’s closing down.”

Torigai said that she doesn’t have any immediate plans to open up a new business, but wouldn’t be opposed to trying again if the right space came along. For now though, she said she’s hoping to have a “really fun” closing night party, and that Whitehorse residents remember the Social House fondly.

“I hope they think of it as a fun and enjoyable space to meet people, hang out with their friends,” she said. “… I wanted them to feel like they were in their own living room, house, space that was fun to be in and be able to see great bands and enjoy themselves doing whatever it was — Drinking With Scissors or playing games or watching movies or listening to a band, right?”

Contact Jackie Hong at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kwanlin Dün First Nation chief Doris Bill holds up a signed copy of the KDFN <em>Lands Act</em> agreement during an announcement at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in Whitehorse on Oct. 20. Under the new act, called Nan kay sháwthän Däk’anúta ch’e (We all look after our land) in Southern Tutchone, KDFN will be able to allot citizens land to build their own houses on, for example, or to use for traditional activities. The First Nation will also be able to enforce laws around things like land access and littering. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s Lands Act comes into force

The act gives the First Nation the authority to manage, protect and enforce laws on its settlement lands

Two doctors in Watson Lake say they are at risk of losing their housing due to a Yukon Housing Corporation policy that only allows one pet per family. (Wikimedia Commons)
Healthcare workers in Watson Lake say housing pet policy could force them to leave

The Yukon Housing Corporation has threatened evictions for having more than one pet

The Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services building in Whitehorse on March 28, 2019. Three people who sat on Many Rivers’ board immediately before it closed for good say they were relieved to hear that the Yukon RCMP has undertaken a forensic audit into the now-defunct NGO’s financial affairs. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Former Many Rivers board members relieved to hear about forensic audit, wonder what took so long

Three people who sat on Many Rivers’ board immediately before it closed… Continue reading

Whitehorse General Hospital in Whitehorse on Feb. 14, 2019. The Yukon Employees’ Union and Yukon Hospital Corporation are at odds over whether there’s a critical staffing shortage at the territory’s hospitals. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
YEU, Yukon Hospital Corp. at odds over whether hospitals are understaffed

YEU says four nurses quit within 12 hours last week, a claim the YHC says is “inaccurate”

Two former Whitehorse Correctional Centre inmates, Ray Hartling and Mark Lange, have filed a class action against the jail, corrections officials and Yukon government on behalf of everyone who’s been placed in two restrictive units over the past six years. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Class action filed against Whitehorse Correctional Centre over use of segregation

Two former Whitehorse Correctional Centre inmates have filed a class action against… Continue reading

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee, right, before question period at the Yukon legislative assembly in Whitehorse on March 7, 2019. The Yukon government announced Oct. 19 it has increased the honoraria rates for school council members. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Honoraria increased for school council members

Members of school councils throughout the territory could soon receive an increased… Continue reading

Triple J’s Canna Space in Whitehorse on April 17, 2019, opens their first container of product. Two years after Canada legalized the sale of cannabis, Yukon leads the country in per capita legal sales. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon leads Canadian cannabis sales two years after legalization

Private retailers still asking for changes that would allow online sales

A sign greets guests near the entrance of the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse on June 11. The city announced Oct. 16 it was moving into the next part of its phased reopening plan with spectator seating areas open at a reduced capacity to allow for physical distancing. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
CGC reopening continues

Limited spectator seating now available

During Whitehorse city council’s Oct. 19 meeting, planning manager Mélodie Simard brought forward a recommendation that a proposed Official Community Plan amendment move forward that would designate a 56.3 hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend, currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
More development in Whistle Bend contemplated

OCP change would be the first of several steps to develop future area

EDITORIAL: Don’t let the City of Whitehorse distract you

A little over two weeks after Whitehorse city council voted to give… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Northwestel has released the proposed prices for its unlimited plans. Unlimited internet in Whitehorse and Carcross could cost users between $160.95 and $249.95 per month depending on their choice of package. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet options outlined

Will require CRTC approval before Northwestel makes them available

Most Read