NEW VANCOUVER BATHOUSE
Calgary’s bathhouse raid isn’t slowing down Michael Hornby’s plans to open a new bathhouse near Granville and Davie. Hornby, who also owns two F212 Steam locations in the Lower Mainland (one further west on Davie and another in New Westminster), says he’s been working on the new project for months. But don’t expect the new tub to look like F212, he says. It’s going to cater to a different clientele, he explains. It’s going to be a little more raw, with exposed concrete floors and walls. “We need something different,” he says. Hornby says he hasn’t faced any licensing problems with the city beyond the usual stringent building regulations-though he’s not too happy about those. “They’re just crazy,” he says. Though he admits some safety regulations are necessary, he says much of the city’s requirements are just “silly stuff. And the delays take forever.” Among the sillier requirements: a designated staff bike room, built according to very specific standards. “It’s just a little $5,000 exercise,” he grumbles. But neither nearby raids nor Vancouver red tape will stop Hornby from pouring the floor in the next few weeks and opening for business in March. He even hopes to host a few women’s nights somewhere down the road.
CALGARY-And on the fifth day after the Goliath’s raid, city hall found a new way to harass the bathhouse: they launched an investigation into the business licences held by the establishment.
Marc Halat, the city’s chief licence inspector, told the Calgary Herald that he wants to find out whether Goliath’s ought to have had a license for lodging and accommodation. Halat acknowledged that the tub has a personal service license-necessary for baths, steam cabinets, steam baths, hot tubs and saunas-as well as a license for retailing tobacco, food and alcohol.
“If they were carrying out a business they were not licensed for, let’s find out why,” the Herald quoted Halat as saying. The fine for lacking a licence could be as high as $10,000 said Halat; a high fine is unlikely in this case, he added.
Two days earlier, a Calgary Herald report raised the spectre of bathhouses as unsafe locations.
Reporter Barbara Balfour explored possible disease transmission at Goliath’s bathhouse and the transmission of HIV to the wives of bisexual customers.
Balfour also quoted gay and AIDS activists who noted the important role that bathhouses play in distributing safe-sex information to customers. And when bathhouses give away condoms, they help customers get in the habit of practicing safer sex.
It’s instructive to compare Canadian and US attitudes toward bathhouses in the early years of AIDS before the virus was discovered. US health officials, and some members of the gay community, put the blame for AIDS on bathhouses rather than on a virus spread through specific practices. They closed bathhouses in some cities, including San Francisco.
In contrast, Canadian AIDS activists successfully fought any attempt to blame the epidemic on bathhouses. They instead turned them into educational institutions.
Two decades later, some commentators have attributed the lower HIV transmission rates in Canada partly to this nation’s approach. In US cities, meanwhile, gay activists are working to get bathhouses re-opened.
NEW VANCOUVER BATHOUSE