4 min

March 26 is Lick’s last hurrah

Vancouver's lone lesbian bar closes its doors

After nearly a decade, Lick nightclub, the only lesbian bar in Vancouver, is closing its doors.

“It’s the end of an era, absolutely,” says Lotus Venues general manager Ethan Wilson, who confirms that Saturday, March 26 will be the last hurrah for the iconic queer space located at 455 Abbott St. Honey Lounge and the Lotus Hotel, the other two of the trio of spaces that occupies the building, are also closing.

“It’s business, unfortunately, that the company chose to sell the building – and with that goes Lick,” Wilson says.

Wilson doesn’t know whom the new owner is or what’s going to be done with the building except that there are plans for renovations.

“I’m in middle management; basically, they told me that it was sold, and I started getting the word out to the people who work for me and the people who promote out at my bars just to make sure they could have as much time as humanly possible to make other plans,” he adds.

Mark James Management Ltd, the former owners of the complex, refused to comment on the sale March 25.

A company official, Drew James, brusquely told Xtra that he didn’t “have anything that I can say that would help you.

“Sorry, I’m really busy. You caught me in the middle of something and I don’t have time to talk right now.”

OpenFile, a collaborative Vancouver news site, states that the company owned the Lotus until last Monday. It quotes Fraser Boyer, the company’s director of operations, as saying the Lotus was a “fantastic business” where everybody did a “fantastic job,” but that it was “a great time to sell land in Vancouver.

“Our management of the venues ceases to exist with the closure of the hotel,” Boyer told OpenFile. “The building was sold and with it goes the property and the licence,” he further stated. “We have to legally let everybody go. The people on staff have been given notice to that effect.”

“I actually worked with Lick on and off since I was 18 years old, doing various things from DJing to promoting to performing drag to bartending – you name it, I’ve done it in that bar,” Wilson, now 27, told Xtra March 25.

Facebookers have been registering their shock and disappointment at Lick’s impending closure, and the news has prompted UBC student Emily Plommer to organize “a Party of Protest” at Lick tonight (March 25).

“Lick is closing FOREVER this Saturday the 26th and that’s NOT ok!” Plommer writes.

“There will be NO more lesbian bars in Vancouver and only having ONE lesbian bar in Vancouver was enough to get a lot of us ranting. But this deal’s done and we’ve got to move on. We’ve got to create our own… space if our spaces are going to be taken away from us!

“Regardless, we ALL have a place, a memory, a story from Lick, whether it’s sexy, funny or just plain ridiculous,” her post reads in part.

Plommer says she heard about Lick’s fate on March 24 through a Facebook message from the club and was surprised at how its closure was communicated.

“I just felt it wasn’t what Lick-goers or past Lick-goers needed to remember their experiences at Lick,” she says.

“I talked to a few friends about it – kind of ranted – and we all decided that a lot of our frustration came out of the fact that it’s a really symbolic representation that is closing,” Plommer elaborates.

“A lot of us had been discussing at various times how it’s really frustrating that this is the only lesbian bar, but we recognize that for some people the space is really important, and it’s also iconically important,” Plommer adds.

There are plenty of gay clubs in Vancouver that cater mostly to gay male clients, she adds, and while they’re “not exclusionary towards women, women need their own space,” Plommer asserts.

She says the party of protest is an attempt to get people together and “see how many other people this matters to.”

It’s hard to find where the lesbian community is if it’s not at the Dyke March day, Plommer continues.

So far, 66 people and counting have indicated they’ll be attending the March 25 party of protest.

Wilson says he first got wind of the event after going online briefly March 25.

“I was really surprised to see that so many people were angry about [Lick closing],” he says, “like folks that I don’t believe I’ve ever set eyes on.

“I understand it’s really important for the community; I understand about being passionate about having a space for people,” Wilson adds.

“I’m a little concerned that they might bring some negativity into the space, instead of sending it out with a bang,” he says.

But Plommer says there’s no intention to be disruptive.

“We’re not there to be angry; we’re there to remember and we’re there to have a good time, and we’re there to meet each other and get excited about new possibilities in creating space,” she assures.

She says she knows people have been “a little bit iffy” about the use of the word protest, “as if we’re trying to say, ‘Don’t close down.’

“We realize that this is a done deal, and that’s why I say we need to move on from here and create our own opportunities,” she explains.

“I think in that way we can see Lick closing as a really positive event, because it’s evident with the number of people that have just signed on to this event, that having a sense of community and a space is really important.

“We’re there to really have a good time, and share that time with [Wilson] and thank him for having such a wonderful space,” Plommer says.

Plommer has posted an updated notice on Facebook to that effect.

“Okay everyone, just to be clear, the use of the word ‘protest’ is symbolic and metaphorical, NOT literal. We are not ‘having a protest.’

“We are DRINKING, DANCING, MOBILIZING, and having a BLAST. We are filling Lick with the best we’ve got because Lick has given us… its best. We will bring our APPRECIATION, LOVE, MEMORIES and POSITIVE ENERGIES,” Plommer’s notice reads.

“It sucks,” says Wilson of Lick’s closure. “I’m the first person to say it sucks, but there are other parties, there are other venues that are totally welcoming of lesbian and queer and transgendered and transsexual people – I mean queer venues.

“There’s a lot of people who have meant a lot to our bar,” he adds, but short notice about Lick’s closure and work schedules won’t permit them to make it on the last night.

“We’re going to give it our all for them,” Wilson promises.