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BIA blocks Village Street Social: new location is ‘plan B’

Party social moved to side street based on stinging email from Gerry LePage

The group that represents local businesses says they don’t want the Village Street Social on Bank Street.

In an email to city planner Ainsley Shepherd, Gerry LePage says that the Bank St BIA (Business Improvement Area) officially opposes closing down the street as a fundraiser for rainbow flags.

And that led the City to withhold a key permit — meaning that that event will now be held on the quieter sidestreet of Gilmour, between Bank and O’Connor.

The September 9 event is a street social and barbecue in support of rainbow flags for Bank St. It was organized after the Bank St BIA released a provocative statement saying it would not support a rainbow designation for Ottawa’s gayest neighbourhood. Organizers will show the camp classic The Wizard of Oz.

Gay business owner Glenn Crawford was left spitting nails.

“It’s frustrating. We have to completely rearrange our plans — we have to notify our volunteers and our partners,” says Crawford. “It’s coming up with a plan B four days before the event.”

Kevin Falkingham from Capital Xtra has been planning the logistics of the social. He’s disappointed that the BIA didn’t have the courage to voice their objections face to face.

Capital Xtra is a lead sponsor of the street social — and a member of the BIA.

“I don’t feel that the BIA represents the business that I work for,” says Falkingham.

One of the BIA’s own boardmembers, Scotiabank, is also sponsoring the event.

City planners cited several reasons for the move — objections were raised by LePage and staff at Hartman’s grocery store. The number of people doesn’t justify the size of the street closure and bus diversions, they say, even though organizers agreed to reduce it to one block. They were also upset that “competing” merchandise would be sold on the street (hotdogs and Village stickers) and that the businesses weren’t notified earlier.

Officials from the city characterize the move as unprecedented, since businesses are usually in favour of events that draw people to their neighbourhood.

Somerset Ward Councillor Diane Holmes was part of that decision.

“Unfortunately, this has happened so suddenly that the city has not had time to notify all the businesses,” says Holmes. “So, in order to assess the popularity, we’re going to move it to Gilmour this year.”

But Crawford points out that event had to be planned quickly, and initial contact with the city was made a month ago.

“The reason for this event was to mobilize the community in a positive way in response to the BIA’s decision not to support the Village at this time,” he says. “We felt it was important to act quickly, to tap that energy. And most importantly, we met every request that was put to us.”