A group of four investors, including two prominent Vancouver design architects, has applied for a liquor licence in the hopes of opening a gay lounge in the old Book Warehouse space at 1188 Davie St in Vancouver.
“For the most part, the gay bars in the community are bars that have existed for some time,” says one of the partners in the venture, David Battersby. “They are great bars and they fill a requirement in the community, but they don’t necessarily represent everyone.”
Battersby envisions a hip, cosmopolitan, neighbourhood bar, to be called simply “1181.” He says it will be for people who don’t necessarily want to go to a denim and leather bar or nightclub every time they go out. “We just want to have a nice lounge where we can hang out with friends and have a nice quiet drink with good music in a cool environment,” he says.
Battersby’s licence application is for a 60-seat bar with no patio. The requested hours are 9 am-1 am Sun-Wed, and 9 am-2 am Thu-Sat. The province has approved Battersby’s application in principle, but it still has to be approved by city council.
“From our standpoint, the location fits,” said City License Coordinator Guy Gusdal at a Sep 15 public meeting at the Central Presbyterian Church about 1181’s application. “We don’t have a lot of issues with these small establishments. This is also going to be an owner-operated establishment. In our experience, when the owner is present, we generally have fewer problems.
“The negatives of the proposal are not significant,” continued Gusdal. “That’s sort of how we would report it back to council.”
In December, city council denied a licence application by PumpJack Pub co-owner Vince Marino for a retail beer store at the same location. Gusdal says Marino’s application was denied because it was for a totally different kind of place that went through a totally different application process than the one Battersby is proposing.
“We’ve never been against establishments,” says Gusdal. “We’re opposed to establishments in inappropriate locations. Somebody who wants to put a 500-seat cabaret in the middle of Broadway goes to the press and says ‘the city’s against us,’ when really, if they came back with something a little more appropriate for the location, then there’d be no problem.”
Marino wouldn’t comment on the details of his beer store application or Battersby’s proposed bar, saying only that more businesses on Davie St are a good thing and that Battersby’s bar is a business deal.
Although Gusdal stopped short of endorsing Battersby’s plans outright, there was strong support for the idea at the meeting.
“What I really appreciate about this application is how much energy and enthusiasm [Battersby and his partners] are putting into actually making a quality establishment,” said Reg Krace. “I actually think it could improve that area and corner and make it even better than it already is.”
“When I saw who had applied for the licence, I knew it would at least raise the bar on Davie St,” said Karen Smith.
“Davie St, for a prominent street in a city that wants to be an international cosmopolitan city is surprisingly, even shockingly, derelict at times,” she continued. “Establishments that are willing to invest time and money making a sophisticated place rather than a dollar store or pay-day loan establishment should be encouraged.
“These [liquor] licences are very difficult to get,” added Smith, “and it’s a very onerous process. I for one, as a resident of this neighbourhood, would like to see more of this type of establishment.”
Only Gerald Chandler, who lives in an apartment right next door to 1181, expressed concerns about the new bar.
“I’m not opposed to the guy opening a lounge,” said Chandler. “I’m just opposed to the possibility of noise like we had when Octane was operating and a few other places on Davie St. If he opens it up and it goes well, good for him, but I don’t want his business to interfere with my relaxation and my home.”
Gusdal says he’ll present his report to council in a few weeks time. When council will actually vote on the application depends on its schedule and that may be complicated further by November’s municipal election.
Battersby urges people to come out and support his application for 1181 when it does go before council.
“People are continually complaining about the lack of diversity in what’s available,” he says. “If you’re a gay man living in Vancouver and you have any desire to see that change, or begin to change, you have to get out and make a difference.”