After years of community complaints about the fences surrounding the Davie Street Pride party, the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) says this year’s party will be virtually fence-free.
“At this point we are only going to have fences at the ends of the block so it’s not going to be a giant cage on the street,” says VPS executive director Ray Lam. “This year we get the model we have been going after for years.”
In April 2014, the provincial government updated liquor policies so that events like the Davie Street party no longer require fenced-in beer gardens — as long as there is a perimeter barrier, such as fenced-off streets or buildings to prevent people from taking their alcohol outside the licensed area.
The VPS was unable to implement the changes in time for the 2014 party but Lam says it has long been the society’s goal to create an all-ages family-friendly event. The fenced-in area, which covered four blocks in 2012, was reduced to two blocks in 2013 and a one-block beer garden in 2014.
“We hope that we can create a different type of street party,” he says. “This is something the city hasn’t seen before — a night-time, family-friendly, all-ages, licenced street party. We want to attract more people who want to have fun on the street who aren’t necessarily looking for a beer garden. We are looking for a more open street party where everyone feels welcome.”
In previous years, business owners complained that the fencing impeded foot traffic and hurt their business.
“It was so crowded on the sidewalks that everybody was kind of squeezing up,” say gay city councillor Tim Stevenson. “All you were interested in was getting past people so you weren’t really enjoying the event, utilizing businesses or looking into the businesses. You were just trying to manoeuvre your way along the edges there. The changes will make it much easier for people to just casually walk along and go into the businesses when they feel like. What’s not to like?”
Lam says the VPS is partnering with many neighbourhood businesses, who will help to produce the event. “Celebrities and Fountainhead are working together to help produce the block between Thurlow and Bute,” he says. “They are getting the stage together and getting the performers for that and managing bar service on that block as well.”
Vince Marino, co-owner of the Junction and PumpJack pubs, says the fenceless party will make for a more exciting and integrated community event.
“This is the very first year of programming an entire street and it’s completely different from what they’ve programmed before, so it’s a learning experience for everyone,” he says. “I think this year will be another step to explore more openness, and I think that VPS did a really good job of us getting there.”
The Davie Street party will also feature vendor tables, games and a silent disco where participants dance to the music of one of two DJs through a Bluetooth headset.
“The silent disco will be in the Bute Plaza, and the actual intersection will have a stage and dance floor produced in partnership with the PumpJack and the Junction,” Lam says.