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Grab your towels, boys

More new bathhouses in the Lower Mainland

The Lower Mainland could soon have one of the most sexually satiated, relaxed and well-bathed gay populations in Canada with the opening of at least two more queer sex-positive businesses.

The opening date for Friction, a new bathhouse in the final stages of construction at 123 West Pender St in Vancouver, has been the topic of rumour and discussion in Vancouver’s queer community for at least a year. Operating manager Jameson Farn, who used to manage the Club Vancouver tub which was destroyed by fire three years ago, says with only a few bureaucratic hurdles left to clear, Friction should be open very soon. But he doesn’t have a set date yet.

“Oh my God,” he sighs. “I never thought it would take this long. It’s been one thing after another. It’s opening, happily. We’ve had some delays with construction.”

Many of those delays are due to permitting issues with the city, but Farn says he doesn’t think city hall has done anything deliberate to stop the new tub from opening.

“There’s just such a lineup,” he says. “We really want to be open as soon as possible.” Each time there’s a delay, he explains, construction workers and tradespeople move on to other projects in Vancouver’s booming construction business. When permits and inspections finally come through, Friction has to wait its turn for workers to become available again. “Whenever we experience a delay, it holds everybody up,” says Farn. “But it’s pretty much done.”

Xtra West asked Farn what the city’s tub enthusiasts can expect when Friction finally opens. He says Friction will sport all the usual bathhouse amenities. There are 50 rooms but they don’t just line the halls. They’re built in a maze-orientation with lots of dark nooks and crannies. “We’ve got some hidden areas where people can meet up,” he says. There will also be some surprises, he adds coyly.

Friction is 10,000 square feet on two floors, he continues. And with something of a mini-bathhouse-boom in the city, Farn says: “We plan on being highly competitive.”

Over on the other side of downtown Vancouver at 1212 Granville St, The Fahrenheit Hotel is already open, says manager Lloyd Norquay. It’s above the existing M2M Playspace, for which hotel guests receive complimentary passes. The Fahrenheit boasts guest rooms on two floors, but those floors are markedly different from each other, he explains.

One is a more cruisey floor where clothing is optional, while the other resembles a more traditional hotel for guests looking for a restful, more private and quiet retreat that still offers easy access to the action.

Rooms do not have en suite bathrooms. Communal, but private, bathroom facilities are at the end of the hall on each floor. The hotel also offers kitchen facilities for guests, says Norquay. And while the building was built in 1910, he says it is completely up-to-date and even offers guests high-speed internet access.

Norquay describes The Fahrenheit as a European-style hotel. “Vancouver doesn’t have anything like this,” he says.

He says he has faced some criticism that the hotel takes up space that would otherwise be on the city’s single-resident occupancy (SRO) hotel inventory. (That is, space used by the city’s hard-to-house populations as very affordable accommodation.) But, Norquay points out, the hotel has not been part of the SRO inventory for years and housing is not being taken from the needy just to open a big gay hotel. “The word is we’re taking housing away from the poor,” he says. “It’s not true.”

As well as Friction and The Fahrenheit, a new bathhouse called Tony’s, opened at 10746 King George Highway in Surrey last month.