The Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) says that it’s doing everything it can to address community concerns about this year’s Davie Street party but that changes to the province’s liquor laws that reduce required fencing around beer gardens likely won’t be implemented until next year.
VPS general manager Ray Lam acknowledges the complaints about the extensive fencing at past events and says the society has reduced the street party’s fenced-in areas from four blocks two years ago to two blocks last year to a single fenced-in block planned for this year.
“We’re putting more of a focus on the open blocks this year. We’re trying to really activate Davie Street this year beyond just having a beer garden,” Lam says. “We are working towards reducing the amount of fencing that we have in the street, but right now we’re at the least amount of fencing we can have and still have a beer garden.”
Lam says that the smaller size of the beer garden means fewer costs for fencing and less financial risk to the VPS. This year’s admission price for the beer garden will be $10, down from $20 last year.
In addition to the one-block beer garden, there will be two blocks of free open space with carnival games. One performance stage will remain inside the fence, while another will be erected outside, in the Bute plaza. Lam says the rainbow intersection at Bute Street and Davie will be turned into a kind of dancefloor.
Not everyone in the community is happy with the decision to keep a fenced-in beer garden. In an open letter circulated on social media, Vancouver resident Brad Teeter calls it an insult to the gay village.
“Please join me in stopping the partitioning of our iconic street,” Teeter writes. He says the “10-foot-high fencing sheathed with dense plastic” creates a “snobbish party during the otherwise remarkably inclusive, festive Pride Week celebrations.”
“Nothing about blocking public access to an iconic street from most of the gay community and almost everyone else comes remotely close to Pride,” he says.
Teeter tells Xtra that he doesn’t understand why other street festivals in Vancouver can put on their events without “cage-like” fencing. “It sends out the wrong message,” he says, pointing to the Davie street party’s $10 admission and $7 beers. “I think currently it’s an event for wealthy men, put on by wealthy men.”
Lam says that the VPS is still working with the city in the hopes of possibly reducing the height of the fences but that it’s still up in the air. But he hopes the new focus on the community blocks will assuage critics.
“I think something that a lot of people don’t understand is that we don’t like the fences either, but this is the framework we have to work within,” he says.