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New tower to be built next to gay club

But Odyssey manager not worried

'The Odyssey isn't going anywhere': Odyssey manager Ron Van Streun is not worried about the new tower soon to be built on the empty lot a few doors down from his club. Credit: Xtra West Files

Instead of a dark and starry night, revellers on the patio of the Odyssey on Howe St will soon be gazing at a 17-storey tower.

The empty lot nearly adjacent to the Odyssey on the corner of Howe and Davie St has finally been sold and a development permit approved to commence construction on a new tower, which will be mixed use for residential and business purposes.

But, says Odyssey general manager Ron Van Streun, the nightclub won’t be closing any time soon because of its new neighbour’s development plans.

“We were here first,” he says. “We have a lease.”

The city has issued a development permit to James Chang Architects. No one at the firm has been assigned to the project yet so they won’t discuss its specifics nor its potential impact on the gay nightclub a few doors down.

However, even if the residents of the new tower don’t like the partying nearby, there’s not much they can do about it.

First, the bar has several years left on its five-year lease. “We’ll get another five years after that,” Van Streun confidently predicts. “The Odyssey isn’t going anywhere.”

And, while some noise complaints are inevitable when residential buildings co-exist with clubs, Van Streun says it’s a situation the Odyssey is very mindful of. Noise levels are strictly monitored to ensure the club is not annoying the neighbours, he says. “Our sound system is very controllable. We’re very careful.”

Furthermore, he says, the nightclub has a grandfathered liquor licence. That means no matter what the zoning around the nightclub is or how it changes, the club itself can continue to operate under its licence.

In the last few years, city hall has been changing its downtown zoning bylaws to favour quieter establishments considered more compatible with residential neighbourhoods, as it encourages more condo development in the downtown core.

The Odyssey, however, is legally non-conforming, which means it’s allowed to keep operating under the zoning bylaws originally in place when it moved in, regardless of any residential towers that may spring up around it.

But if the Odyssey ever were to move out or close, it is unlikely that another club–gay or straight–would be allowed to open in its place.

Still, concerns about noise may well be moot when it comes to the Odyssey.

The bar came in for high praise during the city’s liquor licence review two years ago.

City licensing inspector Guy Gusdal told media at the time that the Odyssey was a good example of how a club can co-exist with residential neighbours. In fact, he pointed to the Odyssey as an example of how a club with good management can stay open until 4 am without causing problems for police or area residents.

He said the number of complaints about the club were minimal.

The new tower is set to be built at 1205 Howe St, but the fence surrounding the site extends around the corner and west up Davie St. If the building is to cover the entire site, it means two lots had to be purchased for its development. According to city records, the 1205 Howe St site was owned by All Star Motor Inn Ltd of Burnaby, while its neighbour at 1203 Howe was owned by Angelika Valchar of Vancouver.

The first plot of land was assessed with a value of $225,000 last year while the second was set at $326,000. Figures were not yet available in city records regarding how much the land was purchased for, nor who purchased it.

A gas station used to sit on the site, which has been vacant for years.

City planner Michael Gordon says there has to be some soil remediation work done at the site before construction can begin as a result of the gas station business.