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Pride street party to be produced by Donnelly again

After negotiations between gay bars and the Pride Society collapse

An attempt by the gay village’s bar owners and the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) to co-produce the second Davie St Dance Party will not get off the ground this year.

But the event, which had its debut on the Friday before last year’s Pride parade, will go on “100 percent,” promises VPS president Ken Coolen.

John Donnelly and Associates, which ran the event last year, will produce it again this year, Coolen says.

Coolen cites time constraints as the reason the gay bar owners are not taking over the event’s production this year.

“We met with them [the bar owners] a few times and at the end of it they decided that there was not enough time for them to pull everything together because this was a very large project, I guess,” Coolen says.

“We asked them and they eventually came back to us and said, ‘We don’t think that we’re going to have enough time to pull this together,’ so it was their choice to step out of the negotiation or the planning,” he continues.

Coolen says the VPS approached the bars about two months ago, “back in March,” about running the dance party. The VPS also approached John Donnelly again, Coolen reveals.

“Basically, we were working with two different groups; we worked with the bars and we worked with John Donnelly and Associates and we asked both of them to put together the proposal, because Pride does not have the resources to put this event on by ourselves,” Coolen explains. “It’s an incredibly huge event — lots of timing, lots of pre-work.”

He says it wasn’t a matter of playing one against the other but “seeing who would be able to do it and what-not.”

Fountainhead co-owner Michel Duprat, who was involved in the effort to get bar owners to develop a proposal, says the bars’ proposal was never finalized. He too cites timing as the problem.

“We couldn’t cross the Ts and dot the Is with all the bar owners,” Duprat admits.

“You’re getting five to six different business people with different ideas and different concepts and different ways of wanting to do it and a month’s time wasn’t enough,” he explains.

Celebrities promotions manager James Steck and PumpJack co-owner Vince Marino also say there wasn’t enough time for the bars to get themselves organized this year.

The village’s gay bars were upset last year when the VPS decided to forge partnerships outside the community to produce the Pride street party.

Steck told Xtra West in February that he was one of many club representatives that felt jilted when the VPS overlooked their participation in the event and instead hired Donnelly.

“They gave us the middle finger,” Steck said then. It was a slap in the face to the bars that have always supported VPS fundraising efforts, he added.

Duprat says the VPS should be “at least making money from this street party.”

Last year’s event made just over $67,000 in gross revenues from beer sales, entry fees and sponsorship, but it cost almost $63,000 to stage — including beer and equipment expenses and the $10,000 flat fee paid to Donnelly to manage the event, former VPS president John Boychuk told Xtra West last fall.

Subtract the profit sharing agreements with Donnelly and Smart Cookie Consulting on top of that and the event made a net profit of $500 before insurance costs, according to Boychuk.

He said those standard insurance costs are allocated evenly across all Pride Society events, so it’s not as if the Davie St Dance Party cost the community any money — despite its $2,087.87 loss recorded in the Society’s financial statement.

Coolen told Xtra West in February that there was an opportunity for Pride “to hire somebody to produce it internally” and said he planned to discuss the matter further with the Davie Village businesses. He said he was confident everything would work out.

Michael Harding, former executive director of The Centre, first proposed a collaboration on the street party between the VPS and the gay bars last year.

Harding says he met with the VPS about the Davie St party a couple of months before last summer’s Pride celebrations, but by that time the VPS had already contracted Donnelly.

“It was going to cost them money to get out of the contract,” Harding notes.

“We were going to have a meeting after Pride [last year] to see how to go forward this year,” he continues.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for village business people to do something that will benefit them business-wise and also the community,” Harding asserts.

“Everyone agreed to meet back in September of ’08,” Duprat says.

But that meeting never happened.

“Then the elections happened for the Society so there was no meeting, so we ended up meeting in March,” Duprat says with a laugh. “They reached out this year a little late. But it was a new board coming on and they’re playing catch-up.”

“To be honest, we said we’d love to do it but we don’t want to put the street party at risk — ‘You guys have already had someone that’s handled this; we urge that you go through your agreement with him with a fine-tooth comb.’

“We’ve all offered our expertise, or any help if they need, to help them with any negotiations or with any costing,” Duprat adds.

Asked how the VPS plans to ensure it doesn’t incur the losses it did with last year’s party, Coolen says Pride is going to be much more involved in the negotiations with suppliers to make the event more cost-effective.

He also hopes to attract better event sponsorships.

“Last year it was a learning [experience] for us,” Coolen says. “I think we realized after the fact that we should have been a little bit more involved.”

This year’s party is expected to cost $80,000, says Coolen, adding that any profit will be split 50-50 between Donnelly and Pride.