Odyssey nightclub supporters left council chambers outraged yesterday after council turned down the gay club’s application to relocate to Denman St.
“I am very disappointed,” says owner Michael Levy.
“The gay community is the biggest loser.”
The city’s decision to turn down the relocation ends a two-month dispute between Odyssey supporters and Denman residents who opposed the club’s relocation.
According to city staff’s community consultation report, more people opposed the proposed relocation than supported it.
Levy says city council’s decision is shortsighted and unfair to the gay community.
“It’s not question of winning or losing here,” he says. “It’s about doing what is right. I don’t feel that council made the right decisions.”
After two days of hearings — which spanned two weeks and 30 speakers — city council ruled against allowing the club to move to 911 Denman St; citing noise pollution to the surrounding residential neighbourhood as the biggest concern.
Councillor Andrea Reimer was the first to make a motion opposing the club’s relocation to Denman St.
Council’s sole NPA representative, Suzanne Anton, was the only councillor to support the club’s relocation.
“I’m satisfied that, from what the club argued, it [disturbance to neighbours] can be controlled,” she said, before introducing her motion to override Reimer’s previous motion.
But Anton could not get council’s support for her motion.
Councillor George Chow called the Odyssey a “cultural icon” but maintained that a residential area is not the best location for the club.
Chow made a motion to mandate city staff to aid the Odyssey in finding a new home. That motion passed.
“I don’t think it [Denman St] is the appropriate place for the Odyssey,” said lesbian councillor Ellen Woodsworth. “I would like the Odyssey to move to a place where it can be even more wonderful and powerful than it is now and I don’t think this is the place.”
Woodsworth said she supports mandating the city to help the Odyssey find a suitable place where both the neighbourhood and club can flourish.
“I’m horrified,” says drag queen and Odyssey supporter Joan-E. “She [Woodsworth] knows more than anyone else that we are a generation and a half from the day when gay people could only be in gay clubs. She just succeeded in closing the only full-time gay cabaret in Vancouver and she couldn’t even look us in the eye to do it.”
While supporters of the Odyssey expressed anger, opponents of the move rejoiced.
“I feel satisfied. The community has won this argument,” says Denman resident Fionna Bayley.
The elderly woman, who has lived in the West End for years, says she was upset when club supporters blamed opponents for destroying gay culture. “We are not destroying anything,” she asserts. “We have a lot of gay people in our building.”
Levy says the city has agreed to meet with him Apr 14 to discuss the possibility of another lease extension for the nightclub at its long-time home on Howe St.
“Staff has graciously extended an olive branch saying we can work out an extension. If we can get an extension there is something to look forward to [but] right now there is nothing,” he says.