Despite opposition from some Denman St residents and the Vancouver Police Department, the Odyssey’s owner remains optimistic that city council will approve his request to transfer the popular gay club’s liquor license to Denman when it comes before council next month.
“I feel very positive,” says Michael Levy. “Obviously there are people that want us here; the people who don’t want us here don’t want change. I think council will look at this as a whole.”
Levy announced in January that — pending city approval — the club would relocate from its current Howe St location to 911 Denman St, former home of the old Starlight Theatre.
The Odyssey, which has been serving the gay community for nearly 25 years, lost its lease last May after the city forged a plan with the province to build assisted housing for people with HIV/AIDS at the club’s longtime address.
Since Levy announced his plans to move the club to Denman, some residents have started Facebook sites, distributed flyers and are pleading with the city to reject what they say will be a perpetual party in their backyard.
A community consultation was held Feb 5 to hear from opponents. A follow-up meeting took place Feb 18 at the West End Community Centre.
“I don’t think it is appropriate to have a nightclub in the West End,” says Lorna Turner, one of many seniors in attendance. “The type of entertainment and what it portrays to residents — especially to families — it doesn’t fit in.”
Turner denies that the club’s gay clientele has anything to do with her opposition. “If they said they were a gay coffee shop, I’d say it’s okay.”
The Feb 18 meeting was part of the standard city notification process.
Barb Windsor, chief license inspector for the city, says she called the open house after witnessing the large turnout at the Feb 5 community forum. The neighbourhood notification deadline had originally been set for Feb 10. However, due to overwhelming response Windsor pushed the deadline to Feb 18.
Layne Jablonski and Mark Robinson attended the open house and say concerns about potential late-night noise and “drunks puking” have led them to oppose the club’s proposed relocation. “We just can’t understand why they would put it [the Odyssey] in such a highly residential area,” Robinson says.
Levy promises excessive noise won’t be an issue.
While the new venue’s acoustics already meet city bylaw standards, Levy says he’ll further soundproof the building with extra glazing on the windows, and close off the Barclay St balcony and build a staff room and office in the back of the building nearest residences.
“It’s totally safe,” he says. “This building as is will hold sound — it’s already within bylaw. There are fire codes, the walls are 12 inches thick of concrete. It’s a good solid building.”
“I don’t think it’s the nightclub noise that’s the problem,” argues Matthew Joselin. “It’s the people outside.”
Joselin says the issue is bigger than the most responsible of bar owners. “The smoking laws have made it very hard for business,” he says.
Supporters of the Odyssey’s proposed relocation were also on hand Feb 18.
“People in Vancouver are too whiny,” says Clark Fryer, who also lives in the West End. “If you are going to complain about the noise, transit and traffic — part of living in the urban core — then don’t live in the city,” he says.
“The West End is primarily gay-friendly, then why not have a gay bar in the centre?” he asks. “I mean the Pride parade goes down Denman.”
“Denman St has always been part of the gay community,” agrees supporter Johnny Veres. “It is very safe.”
“It would be nice to have a place we can go in the neighbourhood without having to go to Granville or Davie,” adds West Ender Andres Poitras.
Const Peter Ryan says the Vancouver Police Department is not against the Odyssey nightclub, but it is against the club’s relocation to Denman St.
Ryan anticipates noise complaints and points to what he considers inadequate space for lineups, the potential congestion associated with not having a designated external smoking space and cumulative noise levels radiating from all nearby establishments.
If city council rejects the Odyssey’s Denman St proposal, Levy says the club may be forced to close its doors. “It is possible,” he admits. “The options for us are limited.”
“We can’t afford to lose another gay club in the community,” says longtime Odyssey patron Stevie Carlstrom. “We’ve already lost too many.”