3 min

Davie BIA goes gay

Declaration of gay community on agenda

It looks like the Davie Village Business Improvement Association (BIA) is finally returning to its gay roots after a two-year hiatus.

Though the BIA’s founders were all gay in 1999, the ensuing years have seen little gay representation on the group’s board of directors and a growing conflict between some board members and the gay community. BIA president John Clerides, in particular, has come under fire for his refusal to recognize the gay community’s special claim to the Davie Village. Now that’s all about to change.

The new board, elected at this year’s annual general meeting on Sep 30, boasts five gay and lesbian directors out of nine. That’s up from just one lesbian voice last year-Azra Kamrudin of Abasa Optical, who returns this year. And Clerides has resigned. (When asked why he decided to call it quits, Clerides walked away and refused to answer the question.)

New board member Randy Atkinson says he’s pleased with the renewed gay presence on the board. It’s time the BIA strengthened its original gay roots, he says.

Atkinson co-owns the PumpJack and Fountainhead pubs and helped found the BIA three years ago. “We put a lot of effort into getting those roots in the ground,” he says. Now it’s time to once again take responsibility and make sure those roots grow in the right direction.

“The gay community is the primary community here,” Atkinson explains. There’s a real feeling of identification with the rainbow flags, the community institutions and gathering places. “Once you solidify identity, you can’t take it away and you can’t ignore it.”

Atkinson is particularly proud of the rainbow banners that now fly proudly from every pole on Davie between Burrard and Broughton. He says the BIA’s original founders put them up because they wanted a “way of marking our territory, [of saying] we’re home now.”

Now, he wants to make sure that territory doesn’t get lost. He wants to create a formal mechanism to ensure the BIA consults the gay community, including the Village residents, on all issues pertaining to the area’s development and identity. The board needs a way to “formally solidify that [voice] and channel it into the BIA,” Atkinson says.

Jim Deva of Little Sister’s would surely agree. Also new to the BIA board this year, Deva says he plans to introduce a motion recognizing the Davie Village as the heart of the gay community. “I think Davie St should be treated as a very unique environment,” he says.

Atkinson says he backs the motion in principle. “This is the heart,” he agrees, adding that he would be very much “in favour of having this declared in some way or another.”

Rick Hurlbut says he, too, is open to the idea of such a declaration. Like Atkinson, Hurlbut, of Red Rocket Travel (formerly the Travel Clinic), is also returning to the BIA after a few years away. He says he knows there has been a sense of conflict between some members of the gay community and the BIA recently, but he wants to see a stronger gay presence on the board now. And he, too, would like to see the area’s residents get a mechanism for input into BIA decisions.

Deva would also like to see the BIA exercise a stronger voice on city council. The Davie Village is unique, he emphasizes; it’s the heart of the gay community. That means the gay community should have a voice not only on the BIA but at the city planning level, when decisions are being made about the neighbourhood’s future, identity and development directions.

Deva says he doesn’t want the city to just decide, for example, to develop Davie into a more residential zone with condos on top of the shops and pubs. Davie is the entertainment centre of the gay community, he says, and that’s the direction it should keep.

Atkinson seconds the need for the BIA to play a more active role at the city council level on development issues. “We know people don’t want the Robsonification of Davie,” he says. “And I think the BIA has a responsibility, if things come up on council that run contrary to that, to speak to it.”

Hurlbut says he would also like to see continued street improvements and a new, non-“hard-hearted” approach to dealing with street kids and panhandlers.

Michael Hornby, the fourth new gay board member and owner of F212 Steam, says he, too, wants to focus on panhandling issues but he doesn’t know what approach to take. “The situation is out of control,” he says. “It’s everywhere and it’s so discouraging to be cleaning up after it all the time.”

On gay issues, Hornby says he is concerned that there has been some confusion about the BIA’s mandate. The BIA is primarily there to maintain, encourage and promote the Davie Village, he says, pointing to its mission statement. The gay part is a major part, he says, but it’s also important “not to alienate the rest of the businesses on the street.”

The BIA board will elect its officers, including a new president, at its next meeting.