2 min

‘Outrageous’ rent increase drives gay bathhouse out of business

Now sTeam collective left without venue

"Nowadays there's lots of people online, so there's no room for three steambaths [in Vancouver]," says Petar Pavlovic, former manager of M2M, now stripped to its bare concrete floors. Credit: Rob Salerno photo

One of Vancouver’s three gay bathhouses has closed following what one manager describes as an “outrageous” rent increase on the Granville St basement property.

M2M’s August closure has left the promoters of a queer, all-gender bathhouse party without a venue.

“Partially as a result of that and some other factors, we’ve decided to shut down the sTeam parties,” says Pussy Liquor, one of the members of the sTeam Collective. “We just can’t find something that would be the same for the events we’re trying to host.”

Liquor says the collective is committed to full accessibility. As M2M was the only bathhouse with a wheelchair lift, the organization felt it couldn’t continue in another venue.

The sTeam parties had been running quarterly since May 2011 and attracted up to 60 people.

“It was also a venue where they were able to split the take at the door for us, instead of us having to put up hundreds of dollars up front to rent the venue,” Liquor says.

Petar Pavlovic, the former manager of M2M, says the bathhouse faced a steep increase in rent and no growth in the business, which made continuing the operation untenable.

“The business was pretty much flat in past couple of years. Our lease had expired in August and unfortunately we couldn’t renegotiate with the landlord,” he says.

The landlord had asked for a more than 18 percent rent increase, Pavlovic says.

The landlord did not pick up the phone when called.

Another factor was the rise in online cruising apps like Grindr and Squirt, which may be keeping people away from bathhouses. “Nowadays there’s lots of people online, so there’s no room for three steambaths [in Vancouver],” Pavlovic says. “If rent was reasonable and business was a little bit stronger that would still be okay. It was a hard decision, but you know how it’s like.”

Pavlovic still co-owns the F212 bathhouse on Davie St, which is owned by the same company that operated M2M.

The manager at Steamworks Vancouver says he couldn’t say whether or not he’s noticed a bump in business since M2M closed, citing trade secrets.

On Tuesday, Sept 11, the former M2M was empty and its doors unlocked. Partitions and fixtures had been stripped from the walls. Power tools and sawdust lay on the bare cement floors. A single discarded mattress lay next to the dumpster in the back alley. No one appeared to be on site.

A sign was posted on the entrance to M2M that reads, “We would like to express our sincere thank you for your support and patronage over the past 10 years. Times are changing and with much regret we will be closing this location on Monday, August 20, 2012 at 8am in the morning.”