At least three staff members of a Seymour St club popular with the gay community have walked off the job and a co-owner has been fired in the midst of an alleged hostile takeover of Club Five Sixty.
Vincent Alvaro, who describes himself as one of three partners in Five Sixty, alleges he was escorted off the property on Nov 18 by Farhaan Ladhani, nephew of Five Sixty partner Zahir Karim.
“I was asked what am I doing here by Farhaan,” Alvaro alleges. “I said I’ve been here every night the club’s been open for the last year and a half, and during the day.”
Ladhani denies escorting Alvaro, whom he calls a consultant, out of the club. He says there was a parting of the ways “because of the fact he was not a team player.”
Former Five Sixty door host Derek Neen says he walked off the job after the club’s Halloween party on Oct 29, partly because his salary had been withheld for two months.
“I said enough, because they kept stalling,” he says. “They would have a meeting and we’d agree to something, and then they would change it and then they would say, ‘We need another meeting.’”
Ladhani, who says he became Five Sixty’s executive director “a few months back,” says his job is to look at the way payments are made in this particular situation and to try to rectify that.
A statement “from the crew at Five Sixty,” posted on Facebook but promptly removed, alleged that one of the club’s partners is “attempting a hostile takeover with the goal of illegally ousting us, installing his relatives and profiting off of our hard work.”
The statement also alleged that the partner is financially exploiting the gay community despite his “documented disdain for the LGBT community” and “contemptuously disregarding the fact that the concept, design and direction of Five Sixty are ours and were six years in the making.”
“The time has come to urge a boycott of Five Sixty while we pursue legal action with the aim of righting a grievous wrong,” the statement reads. “In the meantime, keep dancing (elsewhere) and spread the love.”
“I should start by saying that we regard that posting as defamatory, and it’s in the hands of our lawyers now,” Ladhani says.
“The comments are the work of disgruntled associates who, I guess, they intend to injure us in this business, and we will have to sue them in court. I can say that the statement is false,” Ladhani adds.
“Fundamentally, we had a parting of the ways with a couple of the individuals because they weren’t team players,” he repeats.
Ladhani says Five Sixty has worked very closely with the gay community in the past and will “most certainly continue to work very closely with them.”
“The part of this that’s the most important to me,” he continues, “is the livelihoods of our staff, many of whom belong to the LGBT community and/or are closely associated with it, because they are strong supporters, and I count myself among them.”
Ladhani says it’s important to him that Five Sixty continue to be a strong supporter of the gay community. He says he hopes other segments of the population will enjoy the space, too.
Alvaro says the partnership he formed with Ladhani’s uncle Zahir Karim and Bahaduralli Alibhai in 2005 to establish Five Sixty was troubled from the outset.
In an email leaked to Xtra dated March 28, 2010, the day after the club opened, Karim says Alvaro “deceived the shareholders into making investment into the new club Five Sixty by giving incorrect information.”
“It was evident from the first public opening of the club that it is a Gay club,” Karim writes. “No where during the several discussions verbally or in writing has there been a mention of relocating the Richard’s on Richards club license to the new premises as a Gay club.”
“I expect that you will make immediate changes in the marketing and operation of the club to what was agreed upon by us,” Karim adds.
Xtra tried unsuccessfully to reach Karim for comment, but Ladhani confirms the email’s existence. Though he can’t speak for his uncle, he says the club has “most certainly over the course of its operation in the last 18 months very much been open towards the LGBT community.”
With a club this size and scope, it’s important to reach out to all communities in Vancouver, “which is exactly what we propose to do now and well into the future,” he adds.
In an April 5 reply to Karim’s email, Alvaro denies any deception. “First topic: This is a mixed club (not gay),” he writes, then continues in point form: “No deception, clearly stated in business plan and all information provided; it was never advertised or represented in interviews as gay; we want all customers and a diverse clientele.”
“I hope and trust you understand this is not a gay club,” he adds.
Alvaro says Karim didn’t reply to his response.
Neen is concerned about the potential loss of the space “because we had a very successful night, which was conceived, and directed and run by gay men. What they’re trying to do is take it for themselves,” he alleges.
On Saturdays, the club’s most popular night, gay people make up about 80 percent of the clientele, Alvaro says. “We have nurtured the gay community for almost two years to come to Five Sixty, and it has been a major success.”
Michael Venus, who was involved in marketing, promotions and programming at Five Sixty, says he, too, left the club due to “all the chaos that was carrying on there,” and out of loyalty to “my gay boss” Alvaro.
He says he and Alvaro did “wonderful things with the club and brought in tons of great events.”
“The gay events were obviously the really busy ones,” he adds.
He says the gay clientele is a really key aspect of Five Sixty’s success and that Saturdays were “sort of the anchor financially of the club.”
“The vision I see for Five Sixty is that it always has been imagined as an institution of music, culture and art, and we very much want to see that continue to be the case,” Ladhani says.
Alvaro says the club’s concept and design are his. “It’s been this way for two years,” he says, adding that “everyone knows it’s my vision; it’s been written up in I don’t know how many magazines and newspapers when it first opened.”
Alvaro says he’s put six years into Five Sixty and feels “unbelievably wronged.”