A good chunk of Vancouver’s city council mill about on the sidewalk near Davie and Burrard Sts. It’s Sat Sep 10, and they’ve come to kick off the second annual Davie Day celebration. It’s an all-day street fair put on by the Davie Village Business Improvement Association (BIA).
It’s early, though, and aside from a few other people out for their morning walks, Davie St is mostly deserted. It seems even earlier than it is because there’s no traffic. Davie St has been closed from Burrard to past Jervis St this year so revellers can walk freely in the street.
All the politicians climb into a horse-drawn wagon for a short clip-clop up to Jervis. At the end of the ride there are a few opening speeches. There are more politicians than there are potential voters, but the atmosphere is still casual and relaxed.
“It’s just one of the best neighbourhoods on earth,” says city councillor and mayoral candidate Jim Green. “It’s really great to see the businesses are doing well. Things are thriving in the West End.”
Soon more people arrive for the entertainment and many of the merchants along the street ply their trades out on the sidewalks. The bars have extended their patios out into the road for a change and people are getting into the novelty of having a drink in the open air; there’s more room and the people-watching is better that way.
“I think they really improved it over last year,” says Greg Elzinga who has come to Davie St for a drink. “The street fair and beer gardens are my favourite. I like the atmosphere. There are lots of community groups out here. Much better participation than last year, it’s great.”
While Vancouver drag king troupe $3 Bill performs in the Oasis’ beer garden, the BIA’s Jim Deva struggles with a traffic barrier in an alleyway across Thurlow St. He’s volunteered to keep traffic out so it doesn’t get stuck at Bute St.
“This year’s Davie Day is creating the template for what we’re doing in the future,” he says. “It’s a car-free Davie. Wouldn’t it work well as part of Pride? We just need more people. Slow gradual growth is what we need. The main thing is the neighbourhood celebrates the street and the neighbourhood. Davie Day celebrates our diversity.”
BIA president James Steck takes a break from his DJ duties at the Oasis Pub. “Everything came together very well,” he says. “As with everything there’s always a little bit of drama, but nothing too serious that couldn’t be solved. It was a good experience to actually see what it would take to close the entire village off. We’ve learned some things and it will only get better as the years roll along.”
One of those little dramas unfolded two days before Davie Day. The province told the BIA that there hadn’t been enough time to approve the liquor licences that would allow the bars to extend their liquor service into the street.
Beer gardens are among the most popular and lucrative attractions to Davie Day for bar owners. Most of the revellers Xtra West talked to said the performance by musician Kim Kuzma and the beer gardens were their favourite Davie Day attractions.
Steck says next year the BIA will start planning this event in January or February instead of May so there will be plenty of time to get the licences in order.
“A special thanks should go to [Liberal MLA] Lorne Mayencourt who worked last minute to makes sure all the licensees got their beer gardens,” says Steck.
“The long and the short of it is the licence applications have to be approved by the city first and then they have to go through the [provincial Liquor Control and Licensing Branch] LCLB,” explains Mayencourt. “Then we have to have a full 14 days to review those. I don’t know why we have to have that long, but it’s kind of the process. The licences were delayed coming from the city, so we weren’t going to have the licensing. I worked with the minister and his staff and explained to him how important this day is. I mean really, everyone is here. We just wanted to make sure everybody could have a good time.”
All drama aside, Davie Day enjoyed mostly positive reviews from the people who attended and the organizers say they learned a lot about organizing street festivals for the future.