Wild Bill’s Legendary Saloon
offers window to Banff’s unique spirit
Dessert-filled superhero ice sculptures, cinema green screens, ski gondola photo booths.
What do these unique objects have in common? They’ve all been used to set the scene for events at Banff’s most unique entertainment venue: Wild Bill’s Legendary Saloon.
Wander down Banff Avenue any day of the week, and you’re sure to see a steady stream of guests flowing into this local institution – affectionately known as “Bill’s” – to meet, drink, dine, share, watch, dance, laugh, cheer, celebrate, two-step, and ride a mechanical bull, on Banff’s largest dancefloor.
Showcasing a genre-spanning fusion of local and international entertainment, and an authentic smokehouse menu with a contemporary twist, it’s a venue that mirrors the country-meets-city diversity of its home – Canada’s most unique mountain town.
Weekly bull riding and karaoke
Wild Bill’s stage with live music
Corporate groups with buffet meals
Brad Weir, General Manager, says the variety of entertainment that comes to life within Wild Bill’s iconic saloon doors means he and his team of 50 have the best jobs in Banff.
“We really have the funnest jobs in town, and we pack a lot into every day. Sometimes we’ll run up to three events a day during the summer,” Brad says.
One of the longest-serving staff at Wild Bill’s, Brad joined the team as Bar Manager in 2011 and worked his way up the ranks, before taking on his General Manager role in August 2015.
“We’re willing to take on almost anything, and our events go one of two ways: we either work three months ahead, or we receive a random last-minute request and just make it happen.”
From buzzing film premiere after-parties, Banff Pride events, career-defining music gigs and tears-of-laughter-guaranteed comedy tours, to adrenaline-charged sports tournaments, cowboy karaoke nights with mechanical bull rides, big-brand corporate shindigs and local charity galas – the consistent variety of the venue’s line-up is quite astounding.
“Walking by, you’d never know how much goes on here. Banff is a unique place, but at the end of the day it’s still a small town, not a bustling city with a huge population – so we’re pretty proud of our mix of entertainment for the area,” Brad says.
Brad says the western smokehouse theme at Wild Bill’s is just one small part of the venue’s character.
“There’s a real sense of personality and energy about the place. We took over an existing business in 2011 and have put our own spin on it ever since. We’ve been going after corporate groups and now we’re stoked to be on the map as an event centre,” he says.
“One day you’ll have corporate groups forming a line and dancing at the buffet at lunchtime, then nighttime hits and you’ve got a big-brand company party, live music gig or charity event happening well into the evening.”
When asked about the most memorable events that his team has worked on over the last six years, the smile that lights up Brad’s face suggests that quite a few come to mind.
“A massive highlight for 2017 was the Warner Brothers after-party we hosted for the Wonder Woman film premiere at the Lux Cinema. At the start, it was quite an interesting logistical challenge. We needed to move and relocate every single piece of furniture, hire a truck to transport everything, and completely change the space in here. It was a pretty unique event, even by our standards,” he says.
Despite the initial challenge, the event was a huge success, with a turnout of 300-400 people.
“We wore Wonder Woman branded t-shirts, set up huge banners, and when you walked upstairs we had custom signage, cardboard cut-outs of Wonder Woman, a massive green screen for photos, wall-to-wall posters, and retro pop culture Warner Brothers merchandise. Best of all, we had these intricate ice sculptures, including a massive carving of the Superman skyscraper building – with desserts inside.”
Another stand-out success was a party for Corona, hosted by Wild Bill’s in 2016.
“We completely renovated the whole room to the point that it was completely unrecognisable – and it was the first time we had ever done that. We didn’t realise we could transform the space so much. It looked like you were walking into a top-of-the-line nightclub,” Brad says.
“The place came to life with ice sculptures, all-white furniture, and Corona brought in their own light show. One of the coolest parts was the ski gondola car they used for a photo booth – they brought it upstairs in individual parts and built it right here.”
Brad says his team has also been pleasantly surprised to observe an interesting trend: bands often skyrocket in popularity just after performing at Wild Bill’s.
“We like to think it’s the Wild Bill’s touch,” he laughs.
Shred Kelly live on stage
Wild Bill’s stage with live music
George Stroumboulopoulos on stage
“We booked Sheep Dogs one week in 2013 – then they were on the cover of the Rolling Stone a few weeks later. Strumbellas also blew up after their 2013 show here, so much so we couldn’t have booked again them after that, with the capacity of our space. Too Many Zoos were also here a couple of months ago in 2017 – before long they were all over TV with an ad for Google.”
Although the venue is known first and foremost for its entertainment line-up, locals also swear by the authentic smokehouse menu – especially Wild Bill’s signature brisket, a Banff-take on the classic country western-style dish, served up with secret-recipe beer-battered Wild Bill’s French fries.
Wild Bill’s Caesar
Back in his roots as Bar Manager, Brad and the team brought to life one of the venue’s most popular cocktails: the Wild Bill’s Caesar. A formidable twist on the Canadian classic, it combines vodka, clamato juice, Tabasco, Worcestershire, and Wild Bill’s in-house BBQ sauces, shaken then served with a huge strip of double-smoked bacon.
“We knew we needed a Caesar – but we wanted to make it even better. People love it. The term ‘substitute for lunch’ has been used, so we know we’re onto something good there.”
Named after “Wild” Bill Peyto, a pioneer, mountain guide, and early park warden of Banff National Park, Brad says the local legend behind the venue’s name offers another glimpse into its off-beat soul.
“Wild Bill went down in history as a pretty unique character. Like a lot of outdoors types, he valued his personal space, so the story goes that one Saturday night, he walked into a crowded Banff hotel – with a live lynx strapped to his back. A few moments later he found himself alone in the bar, just how he liked it,” Brad laughs.
“It gets pretty lively here, but wild animal encounters probably aren’t on the cards. Although, on the other hand, with some of the events we’ve had come through… who knows?”
For a full list of upcoming entertainment at Wild Bill’s Legendary Saloon, or to host your own event in this unique 11,000ft2-space in the heart of Banff, visit www.wildbillsbanff.com
Banff Lodging Co. is an employee owned and operated company with accommodations, restaurants, spas, and retail/rental shop all located in Banff National Park