The PumpJack Pub was cleared and closed for about an hour Aug 20 after an unidentified person left a voice message threatening to bomb the popular gay establishment on Davie St.
“They were going to come by and bomb the premises at 6,” says PumpJack co-owner Vince Marino, adding that it was a male voice that made the threat.
Marino says between Aug 17 and 20 the pub received “probably eight to 10 calls,” all anti-gay, and apparently from the same individual.
Marino notes that the call display indicates that the messages seem to be originating in the District of Columbia from “an individual making [comments like] ‘gays are bad’ —just derogatory comments toward the gay community.
“There was a number of calls the individual made and whenever the phone was not answered, he would leave a message,” Marino adds.
Marino says the initial messages did not sound threatening. But when the bomb threat was made at around 1 pm Aug 20, he says it was “no longer taken lightly” and the police were called in.
“We were actually out of the downtown area, and we came back in when our staff picked up the message,” Marino recalls. “We immediately called the police. The business was cleared and police were in the area checking things out and making sure nothing was there.”
Vancouver Police Department media relations officer Jana McGuinness confirms that police responded to an Aug 20 call from PumpJack’s owner about “some disturbing phone messages left on the phone over a period of several days.”
She says one of the messages was “more specific” about a bomb threat taking place around dinner time.
“We stood by for that period of time, and as we all know nothing occurred, which is good news,” McGuinness says.
“But that is public mischief,” she notes. “They can be charged with making threats like that. That will form part of this investigation.
“Whether it’s a hoax or not, we take it very seriously,” McGuinness says.
Police seized recordings from the PumpJack’s premises but McGuinness can’t confirm whether anti-gay comments were made.
“If in fact that is the case, we would absolutely forward that to Hate Crime for a parallel investigation there,” she says.
Little Sister’s manager Janine Fuller was at the PumpJack when word came to clear the bar.
“A written notice was at every table saying that they had been given this bomb threat and that the bar was going to be closed from 5:30 to 6:30, so at that point everyone left,” Fuller recalls.
She says she headed to a meeting at that point but made sure to return to the bar afterwards to show support for the owners.
“I was really reassured by the fact that there were so many people who had not only just come back to the bar but a lot of people had come to the bar specifically to support the PumpJack [in the face of] that kind of act.
“I think that the owners were really responsible and really had the interest of the community that go to the bar, as well as the people who work at the bar, to make sure safety was the number one priority,” she adds.
Fuller says she’s not unfamiliar with this kind of incident, recalling that Little Sister’s was bombed three times —in 1987, 1988 and 1992.
“We certainly had our share of bomb threats over the years where we’ve had to make those same kinds of decisions.”
Fuller says it’s imperative that the queer community be even more determined to go and support queer venues in the face of “gutless acts” acts like that.
“I think we can never close our doors or shut our bars down simply because somebody phones in a bomb threat,” she maintains.
Fuller says such threats are not uncommon, on some level because of the visibility of the queer community.
“We always have been. There’s always people out there who do hate us and who are making phone calls that don’t serve any purpose but to try and keep us from celebrating who and what we are.”
Ron Stipp of West Enders Against Violence Everywhere (WEAVE) says the incident shows that there’s still a significant amount of hatred out there towards the queer community —which is “unfortunate and a bit scary.”
“I would hope that it’s a random incident,” Stipp says. “I don’t see it as an escalation of anything. I don’t think we’ve had an escalation of violence or an escalation of these types of activities, so I hope this is just an isolated incident and we can move on from it. But again, we have to be vigilant.”
As Xtra West goes to press, Marino says there’s no new information about the threat but police are still investigating.