Jennifer Mickey, or simply Jenn to her regulars, made her debut on Davie Street in 2011 after purchasing the 1181 lounge.
“At the time I had no gay friends,” Mickey admits, “so when I knew that I was interested in 1181, I went onto my Facebook and messaged the few friends I knew were gay who I had went to high school with and was like, ‘Tell me about 1181.’” She was quickly schooled, but not by former high school friends: the drag queens got to her first.
“It was a little bit nerve-racking,” Mickey says with a laugh. “The community is very loyal, so I can understand why it took a while to warm up to a straight girl from the suburbs taking over their cherished bar.”
“A few of the drag queens gave me a full spiel,” she says. When they saw how Mickey was determined to bring 1181 to its full potential, the queens quickly got on board. The club now hosts two drag nights a week: Peach Cobblah’s Shame Spiral on Tuesdays and Joan-E’s show on Sundays.
In the years since Mickey assumed ownership, 1181 has become the premier spot for pre- and post-club-night drinks. It gets so much traffic that “it’s bursting at the seams,” she says. Its popularity motivated her to purchase a second venue, Heaven’s Door, at Davie and Bute streets.
“I’m excited to create a space similar to 1181 but be a little more adventurous and have a little more fun,” Mickey says. “Here [at 1181] in the beginning it was, ‘Oh, we don’t do drag shows because it’s so tiny,’ and now we have two drag nights a week. If we can do stuff like that here, then over [at Heaven’s Door], the possibilities are endless.”
Mickey says she needs to be at Heaven’s Door “day in and out” but promises she’ll still be behind the bar at 1181. “I keep joking that I’m going to wear out the rainbow on the crosswalk.”
Mickey even painted her new office the same colour as the one at 1181 because she wanted a little bit of “home.” Maybe the office will help serve for inspiration as she begins renovations, as soon as the city grants its approval.
Heaven’s Door was closed for Pride weekend and delayed its opening because, upon purchase, Mickey had to sort out licensing and permit issues with the City of Vancouver.
“The transaction between me and the previous owners was much quicker than it would normally be, and I just wanted to jump on the opportunity while I had it,” Mickey explains. “It turned out that the City of Vancouver had some issues with licensing and permits, and when that came to light, I wanted my relationship with the city to be good to go before we opened our doors. They wouldn’t do the transfer of the business licence until the issues were solved.”
The previous owners of Heaven’s Door did not respond to Xtra’s request for comment by posting time.
A spokesperson for the City of Vancouver licensing department says Heaven’s Door has secured all required licensing and can be open for business.
Now that the doors to her “new baby” have finally been opened, Mickey plans to keep them that way on weekends while remaining closed during weekdays for renovations. “I didn’t want to take the venue away from the community, especially on high-volume nights like Friday and Saturday where there aren’t many places to hold an event,” she says. “I also like the idea of someone who would come every weekend being a part of the change as opposed to me closing it down and not letting anyone seeing inside and opening up as a completely different space. It can kind of be a work in progress, and the community can be involved.”
“It’s still Heaven’s Door for now,” she adds. “We’ve slapped some lipstick on her, but I’m excited to have an official launch when she has her full face on.”
Mickey hopes to hold the launch “sometime in the next few months.”