4 min

Open all night

What gay candidates say about making Vancouver more fun

Credit: NPA

When it comes to cutting red tape, the high profile gay council candidates on Vancouver’s three major parties can all read the same phrases off the same fun-city-type cue cards.

Even the NPA seems to be having a last-minute, pre-election conversion to fun city politics, if Duncan Wilson’s answers are any indication. But scratch beneath the surface and some differences soon emerge; starting with the candidates’ takes on the province’s proposed liquor law relaxation.

The new vca TEAM’s Alan Herbert says he is “absolutely” in favour of adopting the BC Liberals’ recent recommendations enabling all municipalities to allow bars to stay open until 4 am starting in December. In fact, Herbert, who spent one term on council with the NPA from 1996-1999 before losing that party’s re-nomination, wants to go one step further.

If he gets re-elected with vca TEAM, Herbert says he’ll push for a 6 am closing time to coincide with the resumption of transit service in Vancouver so that people can also get a safe ride home.

If Vancouver is going to be an international city, it will have to start acting like one, Herbert says, pointing to Paris’ recent Sleepless Night festival as a party worth emulating. The Parisian all-nighter featured outdoor concerts, including a big electronic lounge party at city hall, and round-the-clock attractions, with restaurants, bars, pubs, museums and even the Eiffel Tower staying open for business.

COPE’s Tim Stevenson agrees that Vancouver’s liquor laws are “behind the times” and says he would vote for later hours, too. He also says he’ll keep a close eye on the city’s liquor law inspectors if he gets elected. In the last year, city hall has been accused of slow-tracking the PumpJack, Fountainhead and Oasis pubs’ requests for capacity increases, and licensing inspectors have been accused of targeting gay parties, like the Who’s Your Daddy leather event in June.

The NPA’s Wilson says he, too, would support later hours for bars. In fact, he says he doesn’t see why some bars couldn’t stay open 24 hours a day-provided they were in commercial areas such as Davie and Denman. (He’s not so sure about the Odyssey, though, since it is surrounded by residential towers.)

But his rationale for round-the-clock bars has little to do with cutting red tape or promoting fun. To Wilson, it’s a safety issue. Right now, with everyone getting kicked out of the bars at 2 am on Saturday nights, there’s a danger of gay-bashing, he says. If everyone trickled out more gradually, police could spread their resources more evenly and the streets would be safer for gays and lesbians.

Wilson does hasten to add, however, that Vancouverites live in an “over-regulated society” and says he plans to cut some red tape if he gets elected. He says he’d rather see looser regulations overall combined with an ability to revoke specific licenses if some establishments become a problem.

When asked if he thinks the rest of his party would support looser regulations, Wilson repeats mayoralty candidate Jennifer Clarke’s line that a new generation of NPA-ers are running for council in this election. Though it’s Wilson’s first try for a council seat, he has represented the NPA on the parks board for the last nine years.

When asked if he would support all-night Pride parties in bars and clubs, Wilson says yes, provided, once again, they are located in commercial areas. And provided the city could get the province’s approval since the new liquor laws only extend bar hours until 4 am, not all night.

Stevenson and Herbert showed no such qualms. They both gave unqualified nods to all-night Pride parties.

Herbert says his vision of a fun city goes beyond festivals. Though he is in favour of great festivals-and even has some new ones, such as an all-night New Year’s Eve party, to propose-Herbert says Vancouverites deserve more than the occasional night out. He would like to build Vancouver’s entertainment scene into a vibrant daily affair. “One that is worthy of a gateway,” he says.

Stevenson agrees. It’s time for a change, he says. The NPA has been choking the life out of this city for years. “We have to get over our puritanical streak and help people enjoy life,” says the United Church minister. Vancouverites don’t need city hall telling them “why they can’t do this and can’t do that and shouldn’t have a New Year’s party or a glass of wine in the park,” Stevenson says.

Take a page from European societies, he suggests. They are much less regulated “and you don’t have society collapsing as a result.”

Wilson agrees that many Vancouver festivals are over-regulated and thinks council should take down the roadblocks and be more supportive. In fact, Wilson would like to see council sign a sponsorship agreement with the Pride Parade and waive its policing fees, as it sometimes does for other festivals. Two years ago, in a desperate attempt to hang onto the fireworks festival after its private sponsor backed out unexpectedly, council sponsored the festival and waived about $385,000 in sanitation and policing costs. It’s time the city waived some fees for Pride, Wilson says, especially since it generates so much tourism revenue.

Wilson is also willing to review the red tape that now ensnares sex toy shops and video arcades throughout Vancouver.

Sex shops are banned in many areas of the city and face strict control in the areas in which they are allowed to operate. City laws say they must stay at least 305 metres-about two long blocks-away from all elementary and secondary schools, daycares, community centres and parks. They also have to stay away from other sex shops to prevent concentration.

Wilson says that’s the wrong approach. Gay strolls in other cities often have many prominent sex shops, he says, and they “add colour” to the street. He thinks the market should be allowed to decide how many sex shops it can support and in which areas-not city hall.

Stevenson agrees and says he, too, will review the sex shop laws if he gets elected.

Herbert says he has nothing against sex toys but would not want to see the stores concentrated in any retail areas. Many sex shops have blacked-out windows, he says, and that’s like having a vacant lot on the street. Changing the city’s sex store bylaws is “not a high priority for me,” he admits.

Vancouver’s municipal election will take place Nov 16.