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Improve dialogue between West End BIA and Pride: member

How queer will the BIA's Art Krall be?

"If you look at any of our collateral you will see a lot of gay-targeted stuff," executive director Lyn Hellyar told the AGM, adding "the same amount of money or more" is being pumped into the BIA's Robson and Denman areas. Credit: Sarah Race photo

 The need for better communication between the Business Improvement Association (BIA) and the Vancouver Pride Society was a key issue raised at the West End BIA’s reconvened annual general meeting on Oct 6.

The AGM, originally scheduled for Sept 29, was postponed last week due to lack of quorum. This time, of the association’s 800 members, only a dozen people attended.

BIA member Vince Marino relayed merchant concerns about the Pride Society’s Davie Street Party. The street party’s setup affects businesses that rely on a steady stream of pedestrian traffic, he said.

“You lose a lot of business that way,” agreed Brinder Bains, owner of Cobbs Bread in the heart of the gay village.

“I’m sitting on both sides here,” Marino admitted. “I want to see that [Pride] festival grow and I want to see it bigger and better.” But if the street party is to continue, better dialogue is needed between the BIA, Pride and the merchants on the street, he suggested.

West End BIA director Lyn Hellyar says she reached out to Pride to discuss the BIA’s involvement in the street party but was rebuffed. “When we heard about the first one, the invitation to sit down with the Pride Society was not accepted and the same thing has happened this year,” she says.

“I don’t know who she sent the invitation to,” says Pride Society president Ken Coolen. “I didn’t get an invitation.”

Hellyar insists she requested a meeting with Pride and suggests the debate is a “he said, she said thing.” 

Regardless, Coolen says the Pride Society would be “very open” to discussing the Davie Street Party with the BIA. But, he notes, strict city bylaws regarding liquor consumption in public spaces and the need for a gated designated party area during a special event make compromise difficult.

The West End BIA also announced during the meeting plans to sever ties with the Downtown BIA’s Ambassador program and replace it with its own. Hellyar says the West End Street Team will eventually include daily street cleaners, a person on bike patrol and “block captains” to monitor various areas so “everyone’s covered.” The program could be in place as early as January.

The West End BIA, whose annual operating grants total $600,000, came in $30,000 under budget in expenditures this year. Davie Days cost the BIA $40,000 and the newly implemented Art Krall will also be “another fairly costly event,” says Hellyar.

The crawl, set to launch in spring 2011, will showcase artists in and around the West End. Asked if Davie Village sites will specifically showcase queer artists, Hellyar says the event is inclusive of all.

“We don’t separate the queer from the straight artists,” she says.

Hellyar told the meeting that more and more advertising dollars are being spent promoting the gay village. “If you look at any of our collateral you will see a lot of gay-targeted stuff,” she said, adding that “the same amount of money or more” is being pumped into the BIA’s Robson and Denman areas.

Asked what percentage of the advertising budget is allocated specifically to the gay village, Hellyar said she didn’t have that percentage on hand. “But by expanding the BIA we can boast that we have the gay community and we could not do that before.”

Prior to incorporating the Robson and Denman areas in 2007, the BIA was entirely focused on the Davie Village.

Last year the West End BIA’s advertising and promotion costs exceeded $55,000. For the 2011-2012 fiscal year, the draft budget has allocated $18,000 to advertising. The budge also allocates $40,000 to the installation and removal of banners.

Asked if this means the removal of the rainbow banners, Hellyar retorts, “It’s a budget. I am not willing to talk banners.”