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Gay bars won’t participate in Vancouver Pride Parade

Fee hike and income disclosure requirement deter PumpJack, Fountainhead and Numbers

"It is a bit of a financial burden," says Derek White, manager of The Fountainhead pub on Davie St. Credit: Shauna Lewis photo

 Several of Davie St’s best known gay bars will not be participating in the Pride Parade this year due to a hike in entry fees, an income disclosure requirement, and what one bar owner is calling a “disconnected” relationship with the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS).

PumpJack Pub owners Steve Bauer and Vince Marino say they won’t be in the parade this year because the registration forms ask business owners to reveal their annual income. Disclosing that information infringes on their company’s shareholder agreement, they say.

“It used to be about how much space you took up in the parade,” Bauer says. “Now you have to do disclosure of financial process and we’re a private company and my corporate agreement does not allow me to speak about my financial situation as a company.”

“There is a feeling of some sort of infringement on personal financial info,” says Marino.

Marino also objects to the VPS’s decision to only allow businesses to enter floats – rather than smaller, less expensive vehicles or marching contingents – in the parade.

“It’s taken away choices for businesses to do what they want to do in the parade,” he says.

But VPS president Ken Coolen says restricting the participation of on-foot participants to government and nonprofit organizations is nothing new.

What is new, he says, is the requirement that businesses disclose their income bracket in the registration process.

It’s a requirement aimed at better determining the sliding scale entry fee, Coolen explains.

Coolen admits fees have gone up for both businesses and nonprofit organizations this year.

VPS forms show nonprofits will pay $35 more to march in the parade this year and $80 more to enter a vehicle.

Small businesses earning $1 million or less will now have to pay $900 to enter either a float or a vehicle in the parade, having lost last year’s $650 option to simply enter a car or light truck.

“We really wanted businesses to step up with what they can do,” Coolen says.

Businesses pay more than nonprofits to lighten the financial burden on less affluent groups wanting to participate in the parade, he explains.

James Steck, promotions manager of Celebrities nightclub, says his club won’t back out despite the fee increase. Neither will The Odyssey nightclub on Howe St.

Others say the fee hike is too high.

“We would like to be a part of the parade but not at the expense,” says Tom Kosaka, manager of Numbers nightclub.

“It’s very expensive for bars,” Kosaka says. “These are very expensive floats.”

“It is a bit of a financial burden,” agrees Derek White, manager of The Fountainhead pub. “But it’s mainly more taxing on staff.”

This will be the first time The Fountainhead won’t have a presence in the Pride Parade, White notes.

This year, the staff will focus on the bar and patrons rather than the time and money it takes to organize a float, he adds.

For Kosaka, the fee hike is only one part of a larger issue. He says he feels ignored by the VPS.

“There is definitely disconnect from the VPS,” he says.

“It seems to be more about the VPS and less about the Davie Village, which is the heart of the community,” he says.

“We [Davie St bars] should be partners in the VPS,” Kosaka suggests.

He says he would like to work with the VPS, and wonders why the VPS hasn’t reached out to the bars to ask them why they aren’t participating in this year’s parade.

“I’m hoping they [Numbers] might reach out to us,” retorts Coolen.

“Celebrities has done that, and The Fountainhead has done that. I don’t know why Numbers hasn’t done that,” Coolen says.

“At the end of the day, why don’t some of the business owners try to build a relationship with Pride,” he suggests.

Although they won’t be in the parade this year, some of the bars say they will continue to give back to the community.

White says The Fountainhead will donate a portion of Parade-day food sales to the VPS.

Marino and Bauer say they will donate some of the money they’re saving by not entering the parade to community charities.

Gay nightclubs Lick and Score will also not be in the parade this year. Lick cited financial constraints; Score wouldn’t give a reason.

Losing participation from the gay bars is disappointing, Coolen says, but he’s not concerned about a lack of gay representation in the parade.

“I’m not concerned because they’ll be lots of LGBTQ groups in the parade,” he says.