Some West End residents are pleading with the city stop a popular gay nightclub from moving to their neighborhood, pointing to unwanted noise pollution —not the club’s predominantly queer clientele —as the reason for their protest.
“I don’t have an objection to the Odyssey, I don’t have an objection to the patrons. I do have an objection to nightclubs being in a residential area,” says Adele Kirwer, who rents an apartment directly behind the club’s proposed new location on Denman St.
Last spring, the club’s lease was prematurely terminated because of a joint venture between the city and the province to build social housing on the Howe street lot for people living with HIV/AIDS. The club was told it had until the fall to find a new venue.
In October the club was granted a three-month extension, pending the end of a site construction lull, from BC Housing and the city. In January, just before the Odyssey’s lease was to expire, owner Michael Levy announced that the new location would be the old Starlight Theater at 911 Denman St.
Two weeks later Levy received another three-month lease extension, buying him time before the city could complete the licensing and community consultation process. It was during the community consultation process that the city decided to hold an impromptu neighbourhood meeting to address the large number of complaints they were fielding from Denman residents regarding the Odyssey’s plan to relocate to their area. The meeting —open only to those who oppose the relocation —was held Feb 5.
Kirwer was one of many concerned residents in attendance. Wayne Wallace and partner Matthew Joselin were also there.
“It’s not a gay or straight issue, it’s about having a nightclub in a residential area,” says Wallace, who owns a condo on the same block as the Denman St site. “It doesn’t matter what kind of club went there,” he adds. “I would not be for it.”
Wallace, who has been to the Odyssey, says he moved from Davie to Denman St two years ago. He says he and Joselin live in a quieter neighborhood but fears that will change if the Odyssey moves in.
“We are going to do our best to make sure the community is not disrupted,” Levy assures.
He says he has conducted sound tests inside the club to ensure the level of internal noise complies with city regulations, adding that he plans to make sure that anyone wreaking havoc and causing excessive noise will be dealt with.
But those who oppose the relocation aren’t convinced.
“Regardless of them [Odyssey] saying they can control the noise, they can’t,” Wallace counters. Kirwer agrees, saying that despite the fact the area is currently not home to a cabaret, it can still get loud late at night when club-goers return home to Denman. “Add 225 more people to that and it just becomes unmanageable,” she says.
In the past Denman St has been home to clubs such as Da Bong and the gay club, Denman Station. But Kirwer claims capacity numbers were smaller in past clubs.
Police are also concerned with the Odyssey’s proposed relocation.
“We don’t support the relocation to that building,” says Vancouver Police Department (VPD) Const Peter Ryan. Ryan says the upper level venue is not suitable for a nightclub as it is too difficult for patrons and police to get in and out of if an issue should arise. Overall, he says, Denman St is not appropriate as the VPD has already received many noise complaints about smaller pubs in the neighbourhood. Having a 200-plus capacity cabaret moving in will lead to more noise complaints, he says. The VPD spokesperson suggests that clubs should stay out of residential neighbourhoods and keep within the entertainment districts.
“Our clientele is not a Granville St clientele,” Levy contends, saying his main reason for keeping the Odyssey in the West End was out of protection for his patrons. “Our community feels safe in the West End, and the club is a neighborhood club,” he explains.
Queer Denman resident, Bobbie Bees, says he is in support of the club’s relocation as long as they adhere to proper noise regulations. Bees adds that some of the excuses used by residents at the meeting last week were weak. “This is Denman Street,” he emphasizes. “When the Dover Arms Pub closes, there is always noise.”
West End Residents’ Association president Brent Granby says the organization is taking a non-partisan stance on the issue. “Clearly any business that goes in there, whether it be a nightclub or any other type of business, would have to be responsible and accountable to the community.
Kirwer says she won’t start a rally or protest but promises to follow through with the process, even if she thinks the city has done a poor job of notifying Denman street residents.
“We hand delivered them [notices] to all the buildings [in the radius] and when we couldn’t get in the building we posted them on the doors,” Lucia Cumerlato says. The licensing coordinator also says she provided building managers with multiple copies to give to tenants. Residents had three weeks from the time the city notification letters, dated Jan 21, were distributed to area residents to make their grievances known to the city, she says. Cumerlato estimates that she’s received 150 complaints about the relocation.
But Wallace his entire building only received four copies of the letter and had to photocopy and distribute them to his building.
Kirwer says she hopes the lack of information she feels was provided to the community from the city won’t impede the process and that community members’ voices will be heard prior to Feb 10 when Cumerlato closes the community consultation process and begins her report to council.
An official decision regarding the club’s future location is expected to be made when the issue goes before city council Mar 26.