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Council postpones Odyssey decision

Second hearing on the club's move scheduled for Apr 9

Credit: SARAH RACE PHOTO

The fate of the Odyssey nightclub remains undecided after a three-hour hearing at city hall ended with some of the 30 speakers still waiting for their turn to address council. The hearing will reconvene Apr 9.

Both sides had hoped council would make a decision on the gay club’s proposed relocation to Denman St at its Mar 26 hearing, but the issue was placed last on the agenda and due to time constraints, the large number of public speakers and a loss of quorum on council, the decision was postponed.

The need to relocate the Odyssey stems from the city’s decision to terminate the club’s lease at its longstanding Howe St home. The building is being converted into social housing for people with HIV/AIDS.

“This establishment has been operating in a successful manner with respect to the relative bylaws and resolutions. The applicant feels that the establishment will have little impact on the local area and will continue to benefit the gay community and will take all necessary measures to make sure their presence at this location will not disrupt the area residents,” city licensing coordinator Lucia Cumerlato told the hearing to snickers from the room. 

The Odyssey received broad support for its proposed relocation during the city’s community consultation process, Cumerlato noted, “particularly from the gay community.”

But her report showed overall that more people oppose the relocation than support it.

Council also received small petitions from area residents, as well as letters of concern from the West End Citizen’s Network, the Vancouver School Board and the Vancouver Police Department (VPD).

“The relocation of this primary liquor license and the operator’s track record would generally result in staff supporting this request,” Cumerlato said. “However, staff has put this application forward for council’s consideration due to concerns raised.”

In his address to council, Odyssey owner Michael Levy pointed a finger at the VPD, claiming the police’s fear mongering swayed residents to oppose the move.

“They were very strong and raised quite a few unnecessary premature concerns among the residents who believe that moving the Odyssey to 911 Denman St will bring chaos, prostitution, urination on the street and will be total Armageddon in the area,” he said.

At a community meeting last month, VPD Const Peter Ryan adamantly disapproved of the relocation, citing the potential for excessive noise in early morning hours from clubbers leaving the Odyssey.

“Gay clubs are known for being very orderly and never having problem, generally,” gay councillor Tim Stevenson countered.

NPA councillor Suzanne Anton said she had a “very nice time” visiting the Odyssey.

“You can see the difficulty here,” Anton said. “Mr Levy is running a very well liked business and it doesn’t seem to cause any difficulty or harm where it is, but the choice of a new location is not one that is generally well accepted by the neighbourhood. What is Mr Levy to do?” she asked staff and council. “How can we help him?”

“We can help him to see if there are other locations that are suitable,” Cumerlato suggested.

But finding a suitable location for the Odyssey has been difficult, said Levy.

“Concerns over safety for our patrons and the need to maintain our identity without social repercussions were the main reasons why we must stay in the West End,” he said.

“Even the West End these days is a little bit of a challenging situation for the gay community,” he added. “We’ve had a gaybashing there only a week ago. [But] for us to give our clientele the safety that they require, the West End really is the only choice.”

Gay Denman residents said Levy’s arguments are weak.

“I am aware that some of my fellow gay, lesbian and transgender friends have indicated that they feel safe in the West End and downtown south and that is why they would like the Odyssey to be allowed to move to the West End,” said Wayne Wallace. “I urge these people to please not fall into a false sense of security. No one is safe when walking home in the early hours of the morning. In fact, most attacks in recent years have been right in our neighborhood of Davie St.”

“It doesn’t matter to me who the patrons are,” said West End resident Adele Kirwer. “I don’t think any nightclub with potential operating hours until 2 or 3 am is a good fit for any primarily residential neighbourhood.”

“It’s the hottest gay night club in the city. Wouldn’t they want to be in the hottest gay area?” asked gay Denman resident Matthew Joselin.

“If we were able to stay at our location where we are, it would be a different scenario. But we can’t, we have to be out of there,” Levy said.

“We respectfully request that you endorse relocation with an amendment to allow us to apply for extended hours right away,” Levy concluded to both jeers and applause from the gallery.