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Odyssey not intimidated by Alto tower

Gay club not going anywhere, manager says

SALE PITCH: Chris Kean says an Alto sales representative recently hinted to him that gay club next door would soon be rezoned out of existence. 'Not true,' says The Odyssey's manager, Ron van Streun. Credit: Xtra West Files

Chris Kean is disturbed that The Odyssey on Howe St may soon disappear like such gay locales as The Dufferin and Royal Hotels.

The Vancouver resident was walking home recently when he visited the sales office of Alto, a new residential complex being built on the empty lot at the corner of Davie and Howe adjacent to the nightclub.

Kean says he asked an Alto sales representative if the new building is planning any special features to address the potential noise coming from the club next door. He says he was told “that wouldn’t pose a problem [because] they knew that the whole site had been rezoned for residential [purposes].

“They made it sound like, ‘Don’t worry about it. The club won’t be there very much longer. It’s not an issue.'”

Kean became concerned because, “being a gay man living downtown, we need a place to go. We’ve lost The Dufferin. We lost the Royal, and to lose another one is going to be a damn shame.”

“That’s a fallacy, if that’s what they’re telling their customers,” states Ron van Streun, The Odyssey’s general manager for the past 15 years. “They can’t say that because they don’t own the property that we are on.”

“It seemed pretty legit to me,” Kean counters. “She sounded very convincing. I’m sure it was some part of their sale pitch, but it was convincing enough to ask what was going on.”

When contacted at the Alto presentation centre, sales agent Muna Tayour states, “The Odyssey doesn’t necessarily have very many patrons, which is a kind way to put it. I believe it is on its way out. I think that the following’s not really there anymore. More people go to Celebrities.”

Tayour works for MAC Marketing Solutions, the company that is marketing and selling the building on behalf of the developer, Anthem Properties.

Van Streun says business at The Odyssey is better than ever. “We went through a bit of a dip when Celebrities first opened but over the period of a year everybody made their own choices of where they wanted to be. In the long run, it brought more people downtown. The same thing with The Majestic and 1181. The busier the West End is, the busier we [are].”

Kean admits that he doesn’t go to The Odyssey as much as he once did but, “of course, I still go. It’s part of the community. I go there for the shows and to socialize with different people.”

Tayour claims that discounting The Odyssey’s noise and proximity are not part of Alto’s sales strategy. “I don’t necessarily know if the club will go away or not, but if you look at downtown Vancouver, a lot of changes have been happening to club locations,” she says.

Tayour says it’s her understanding that The Odyssey’s building is owned by the City of Vancouver. “The City does have some plans which have been underway for the last five to six years,” she claims. “They’re waiting for some of the tenants’ leases to expire, and then they’ll probably do something similar to what we’ve done. Look at the property value of the land. I doubt it would be another club that would go next to us.

“If it does stay, or it doesn’t, I don’t think it would affect our tenants,” she adds. “Most people are very, very positive about everything that’s currently in this area. People are moving here because they like the location, not because they expect a change.”

Van Streun maintains The Odyssey is not moving anytime soon. “We have an ongoing lease definitely for the next four years. Then we’ll do another five years, and possibly another five after that, so we’re looking at about 14 years in the location that we’re at.”

He says he’s not aware of any rezoning applications currently underway for the club’s location. “I am 100 percent sure about that.”

Mike Wilson, planning assistant for the city’s central area, confirms that no active applications for development permits have been submitted for The Odyssey. However, all inquiries that the City handles for any site remain confidential until a formal application is received.

Asked whether the location could be rezoned, he says, “It depends on which applicants come forward. Somebody may be thinking of rezoning the nightclub tomorrow, run out of money, and then it stays. It all depends on timing, budgets and money. Nothing is ever 100 percent.”

Wilson confirms that the site is currently owned by the City of Vancouver, but is unaware how long it has owned the land. He also notes that the area is reserved for social housing as a future use. “The City leases the site, obviously. Once funding becomes available, and when it is a priority, then the site will be developed for social housing.”

Van Streun maintains he’s not concerned about the new development. “There’s nothing they can do about us.”

He says a nearby hotel has “sicced the health inspector on us four times. On their fourth inspection, we were still perfectly within the legal limit.

“We’re allowed to be at 110 [decibels] inside the club,” he notes, “but we operate at 105 to 108. A bus actually makes more noise than we do.”

If Alto is going to challenge the club about noise, says van Streun, “they’re going to go through the same process that the hotel went through, and they’re not going to win because we’re compliant. Poor bastards won’t have a leg to stand on. The health inspectors think we’re the good club. We’ve done our part.”