Vancouver
3 min

Is the Duff in danger?

Former manager predicts gay landmark will be sold

IN GAYER TIMES? Cary Grant painted the rainbow on the Dufferin's door himself. He was fired May 1. Credit: Robin Perelle

The Duff lives- for now. Despite persistent rumours that the Dufferin has been sold and is on the verge of closing, the longtime fixture on Vancouver’s queer map is going to be roaring back to life soon, the new manager promises.



But former manager, Cary Grant, who was fired May 1, surmises the end isn’t far off.



Grant says he can’t discuss why he was fired. But he’s mystified by recent cutbacks at the bar because sales are the best they’ve been in several years.



The recent closure of the Dufferin’s Back Alley Bar, plus the cancellation of one of its long-standing stripper nights, sparked rumours in the community that the end was in sight for the queer landmark.



But new manager Marty Walsh says those problems are being fixed.



“All the rumours are false. We’re going to get back on track,” he says. “It’s going to take a bit but we’re coming back full-blown.”



Walsh says the Back Alley Bar, known for its go-go dancers, was closed for a while due to problems getting liquor stock. The current beer strike notwithstanding, that should be resolved in fairly short order, he says.



And the owner is keeping the hotel, he adds, dismissing rumours of the building’s sale.



“He’s committed to the community,” Walsh says. “It’s going to be here for a while.”



According to taxation records at city hall, the Dufferin, located at 900 Seymour St, is owned by the numbered company 593864 BC Ltd, incorporated in 1999.



A search of corporate records in Victoria indicates the company has one director, Nizar Solehdin. Its registered offices are at 1040 West Georgia.



Tax records show Solehdin is sitting on land valued at $2.7 million while the building is estimated at $645,000.



Asked if there have been overtures to purchase the site owing to the large-scale development the Yaletown area has seen in recent years, Walsh says: “Any building is always for sale.”



But Grant says it’s only a matter of time before the Duff is just another part of Vancouver’s queer history.



“I feel pretty comfortable that [Solehdin’s] getting offers like mad on the Dufferin site,” explains Grant, who says Solehdin lives on the North Shore. “He’s very tight-lipped.



“I would place bets that time is not on the Dufferin’s side,” he adds with a sigh.



Grant, who managed the Dufferin for nine years, has a fondness for the building and its patrons.



“It’s got a lot of charm. That’s probably the last [queer pub] of its kind in North America. It’s a community centre. It’s a street bar. It caters to everybody from the very rich to the very poor.”



And developers buzzing around city hall have made no secret of their desires to redevelop the site.



“The city has been contacted by two or three individuals,” city planner Michael Gordon says. “It doesn’t sound like anything’s firm or any sale has gone ahead. People were contacting the city and wondering what they could do with the site.



“No one’s shown up with an architect and proposals to do something with the site,” he cautions. “I don’t think anything is imminent.”



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As is frequently the case with numbered companies, the address for the hotel owner turned out to be a law office-that of Chiu Pinter Barristers and Solicitors.



Xtra West went to the office and asked to see the lawyer representing the company.



Through the receptionist, Xtra West told the lawyer, Ken Phillips, that the newspaper had heard the land could be sold as part of the ongoing redevelopment in the area.



He declined to speak with Xtra West in person, passing his “no comment” through the receptionist.



Should the time ever arise when the community wants to preserve the queer cultural landmark, one way may be to try to have it declared a city heritage site.



At that corner, such things are not unknown. While the parkade on the northeast corner-which Grant says has recently been sold-is not a heritage parking lot, the building housing Staples is a Schedule A landmark known as the Dominion Motors Building.



Kitty corner to the Dufferin is the Orpheum. It, too, is a Schedule A heritage building, according to records at city hall.



Walsh insists that the Dufferin isn’t in any danger of closing right now.



When asked what he thinks may have sparked rumours to the contrary, Walsh says they could have started with a number of people who’ve been barred recently as the establishment tries to preserve order.



It hasn’t been easy, he says. With the Vancouver Police Department’s Operation Torpedo last April displacing many drug dealers from the Downtown Eastside, he says many have wound up at the intersection outside the pub, as well as at Davie and Bute and Seymour and Dunsmuir.



A petition was started to ask the police to move the dealers. And it’s met with a lot of agreement. “We got a lot of signatures,” Walsh says, noting many people in the new, neighbouring residential buildings signed.



There was also a problem with a go-go boy in the back bar, he adds.



“One of the dancers got carried away,” he chuckles. “Unfortunately, he got carried away on two female liquor inspectors.”



If the go-go bar becomes too much of a hassle to run, it may be turned into a games room, Walsh says.