It had all the markings of a new era of relations between the gay community and a group that represents Bank St businesses: a party celebrating both the newly renovated street and the opening of Pride Week.
On August 22, Bank St was to be cordoned off for an afternoon of revelry — music, food, drink and queers having a good time.
But the Bank Street Business Improvement Area (BIA) has put the kibosh on it, first changing the date, then eventually cancelling the event entirely.
For months, Capital Pride, the Village Committee, Diane Holmes’ office and businesses along Bank St have been planning the grand opening with a special Pride flavour — a queer party at the corner at Bank and Gilmour.
Earlier this month, members of the BIA voted unanimously to cancel the opening and by default, Pride’s queer party.
Doug Saunders-Riggins is the chair of Capital Pride.
“The intention of Pride was to go ahead and do this Bank St party to see if it was feasible to get Pride back on Bank St,” says Saunders-Riggins.
Ottawa’s Pride parade marched down Bank St from 1997 to 2004. In the early 2000s, the Parade emptied out onto a big, gay street party on Bank, rather than onto the lawn of city hall, where it finishes now.
“Apparently they don’t want to partner with us —that is the impression that I am getting,” says Saunders-Riggins.
On July 7, the BIA had sent out an email saying the date for the Bank St opening had changed to August 15. According to the email, the BIA had determined that the revenue from the sidewalk sale — scheduled on the same day as the Pride party — would be marginalized for two reasons: it was too late in August, and it was at the same time as the Super Ex Exhibition.
The board then cancelled a July 13 planning committee meeting to discuss the dates for the Bank St opening. Members of the planning committee were told they would be informed of the BIA’s decision by July 22 — one month before the original date of the party.
Glenn Crawford, chair of the Village Committee, became involved with the planning of the street party as early as March this year.
When he received the original change of dates, Crawford wrote to the BIA asking for the sidewalk sale to be a week earlier and for the board to keep the opening of Bank St for August 22.
While waiting for the board’s decision, the planning committee met with the Ottawa Police and the City of Ottawa in a SEAT meeting on July 20 to work out the logistics of street closures.
“The city was quite reasonable and was willing to work with what information they were given — scheduling a second meeting to nail down the date and the site map,” said Crawford.
At the SEAT meeting, Kimberly Doyle from the BIA reiterated the BIA’s concern that the event clashed with the Super Ex.
On July 21, Gerry Lepage, executive director of the BIA, sent out an email advising everyone that the BIA’s board of management voted unanimously to postpone any events scheduled for August 15 or August 22.
Neither Doyle nor Lepage have returned any of Xtra’s phone calls asking for a comment on the cancellation.
Michel Parent, branch manager of Scotiabank and BIA board member was also contacted.
“I don’t want to do that; we have an executive director for that,” says Parent.
Councillor Diane Holmes was away when the board cancelled the opening and queer party.
With no communication from any of the BIA’s board members, plans for the queer Pride party have been put on hold.
“Obviously we are really disappointed. We have been working with the BIA for quite some time, and we were excited to be working with them on a project,” says Crawford.
The Village Committee has had a shaky past with the BIA under Gerry LePage. But in the past year, the two groups began making tentative steps to work together in creating a vibrant Bank St.
“I think that we all valued the opportunity to be more visible in the community and build the bridges and work with [the BIA],” says Crawford.
However, the uneasy truce between the Village Committee and BIA has not extended to Capital Pride.
“I have never received an invitation to go to the BIA meetings,” says Saunders-Riggins. “I have gone to their office three or four times for meetings to be cancelled or postponed. I have never received a phone call from the BIA — it’s just another example.”
The BIA is keeping mum about the cancellation and has not issued any statement about rescheduling the opening of Bank St.
“Unfortunately, there is no word as to when the Bank St grand opening will happen or whether it will happen,” says Crawford.
Have a look at our photo gallery of Pride’s time on Bank St, from 1997-2004: