Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan’s Project Civil City campaign has some Davie Village bar proprietors worried that the city will roll back liquor service hours in the gay neighbourhood in an effort to combat hooliganism in the Granville Entertainment District.
Sullivan and the Non-Partisan Association (NPA)-dominated city council introduced Project Civil City in December 2006. The NPA plan aims to decrease the number of homeless people, drug dealers, panhandlers and nuisance complaints to police by 50 percent in time for the Olympics in 2010. One of the objectives of the program is to “address public disorder in the Granville Entertainment District.”
At an Apr 5 city council meeting, NPA councillor Kim Capri introduced a motion to bring forward a staff report on “the process, implications and specific bylaw amendments that would be necessary to roll back bar closing hours to no later than 2 am across the city.”
“Our concern from the perspective of Davie St and the gay village is that we don’t have the problems on the Granville strip,” says Vance Campbell, proprietor of The Oasis and Sugar Daddy’s on Davie St. “Rolling back the hours on Davie would be devastating to our business and it would be devastating to the lifestyles of a lot of people in the Davie Village, which is a 24-hour village. I think it’s a real step back.”
“Everybody on council agrees that there’s a problem in the Granville Entertainment District,” Capri told Xtra West Apr 17. “But no one on council wants to see the bar hours rolled back. What we all want to do is achieve a vibrant, healthy entertainment district both on Granville St and in other vibrant pockets like Davie St. The Davie folks are not the issue. It would be unfair to group them categorically in needing to address the problem.
“If we have a uniform closing time across the city, will that not challenge the police more because then they’ll be required to be everywhere at once?” continues Capri. “Secondly, by extending the bar hours, didn’t we address the problem of rogue clubs that were open after hours?”
But Capri is not willing to go so far as to guarantee bar hours in the Davie Village won’t be changed.
“I can’t unequivocally say it’s not going to happen,” she says. “That’s just not the intent of where we want to go.”
Since it took control of council in 2005, the NPA has typically decided policy behind closed doors and voted as a bloc.
In October 2005, when he was running for mayor, Sullivan told Xtra West that he wanted one bar closing time across the city.
“I’m very opposed to violating the policy of our liquor program to put one neighbourhood at an advantage over another neighbourhood,” he said. “I’ve had gay people come to me and tell me it’s incorrect to think that all gay people go to bars and that’s where they get their so-called community from. That’s totally untrue. They go to where everyone else goes.”
But when pressed on the issue of safety-that some queer people may be taking their lives in their hands by venturing into the Granville Entertainment District and would be safer and more comfortable partying on Davie St-he seemed open to compromise.
“Your issue about violence and gaybashing makes me pause and say ‘Whoa. We have to think about that and how that fits into this,'” he said. “There are cases where you have to vary.”
In June 2005, before the NPA took control, council did vary the city’s liquor policy to protect queer people.
Davie Village bar proprietors and a passionate group of queer community members, with the help of Vision Vancouver councillor Tim Stevenson, convinced council-against city staff recommendations-to extend Davie Village bar hours to 3 am to match the hours on the Granville strip.
“I’m barely comfortable walking down Granville St holding hands with my boyfriend when it’s two o’clock in the afternoon,” community member McKenzie McMillan told council that day. “I don’t think I’m very safe walking into a Granville St bar with my boyfriend. Granville St is war zone after work.”
“Granville and Davie hours mirror each other and we fought very hard to get that,” says Campbell, who was a key figure in the establishment of the Granville Entertainment District before he bought his bars on Davie. “Our idea is that these issues [on Granville St] are not caused by the closing times, they’re caused by the fact that people drink to a deadline. It doesn’t matter what that deadline is. If they close at 9 pm, everyone’s got to pound them back at 8:30.”
So, how might council address problems on Granville St without punishing the Davie Village?
“Go after the hooligans,” says Campbell. “It’s like a badge of honour in Port Coquitlam, Surrey or Abbotsford, to be chucked in the can in Vancouver. They high-five each other when they get out of jail the next day. Fine them heavily. Attach the fine to their driver’s licences.”
The club proprietors on Granville St are making an effort to avoid changes to closing times as well. They’ve hired eight more private security people to patrol the sidewalks, they’ve agreed to disperse line-ups at their doors before closing time, they’re sharing information to ensure that someone banned from one club is banned from all of them, and they’ve expressed some enthusiasm for police-monitored security cameras.
Capri’s report on the process for rolling back closing times is due back from staff sometime next month, but no date has been set. In the meantime, Campbell and other gay village barkeeps have organized a campaign to drum up support for keeping Davie St open late.
“People [at gay village bars] will be invited to sign a petition that would include their name and postal code and optional e-mail address,” says Campbell. “I think as a community we need to make our voices heard.”