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Odyssey nightclub could reopen in new location in a few months

New owner optimistic, waiting for business licence and city permits

The Odyssey stood as an anchor of gay nightlife for more than 20 years on Howe Street.  Credit: Natasha Barsotti

After closing its Howe Street doors in 2010 to make way for supportive housing for HIV-positive people, the Odyssey Nightclub will likely reopen at a new location on West Hastings Street in early 2015.

“We have our liquor licence and space confirmed, and we are just now waiting on approval for our business licence, building permit and development permit from the city,” new owner Bijan Ahmadian says. “I’ve already met with the city, and they are very excited and thrilled about everything. Things are progressing and moving forward, but I can’t guarantee it will go ahead until all the pieces are in place.”

If approved, the Odyssey will be located in the old Pop Opera Nightclub location, at 686 W Hastings St near Granville.

Ahmadian, who is a lawyer and a former president of the University of British Columbia’s Alma Mater Society, says the Hastings location quickly became the top choice partly because of its proximity to two SkyTrain stations. “Members of the LGBTQ community live all over the Lower Mainland, and if we’re close to a SkyTrain station we will be more accessible than on Davie Street,” he says.

The new 5,000-square-foot location will offer some familiar amenities, including an onstage shower and a performance space to support LGBT talent. “I am passionate about building a queer community that doesn’t just tolerate, but embraces diversity, and I think there’s a lack of good quality space outside of Davie Street that caters to a range of functionalities,” Ahmadian says. “A nightclub is just one of our functionalities. It will also be open for receptions and networking events and allow people in community to rent our space.”

The performance space will include a green room where talent can do their makeup, shower and change their clothes. “I come from a performing background, and I know the importance of giving performers a comfortable space to change and do their makeup, as well as access to a washroom and showers, in order to be comfortable,” Ahmadian says.

He says the project is financially supported by philanthropist Peter Allard. “Peter called me last October and said, ‘Bijan, it’s been three years, and I would like to reopen the Odyssey, and I would like to continue the legacy. Will you help me do this?’” Ahmadian says. “It was a very short voicemail, and up until then I had no idea Peter was behind the original Odyssey.”

Allard is out of the country and won’t be available for comment for months, an unidentified receptionist at Allard’s Highbury Foundation told Xtra.

Former Odyssey manager Will McGuire, who is a consultant on the new project, says the decision to use the old name was not made lightly, but he is confident the new club will live up to expectations.

“I think there’s always a concern when you’re trying to remake something as iconic as the Odyssey that you’re going to completely replicate it,” McGuire says. “Everyone knows it wouldn’t be possible to replicate such a fantastic space. What I love about this new space, though, is that we can design some nods to the original space and capture some of the pieces that made the Odyssey what it was, while still giving fresh room for innovation and room to take on new projects.”

McGuire describes the new location away from Davie Street as a bold choice. “Davie is always going to be a hub, but the reality is we have fewer spaces that we can identify as our own than in the ’80s or ’90s,” he says. “It’s time for us to make a stand in new areas of the city, and this is one of them. It’s a fantastic space with the right group of people leading the charge who are a blend of familiar names and new ones. I think it’s going to turn out well.”