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Putting gay bars at a disadvantage

Bar owner says city's new plan will discriminate against gay nightlife

UNFAIR. Plan to roll back hours at some Davie Village bars could put queer places at a disadvantage. Credit: Matt Mills Photo

Questions,confusion and concern continue to swirl around the city’s proposal to change the operating hours of bars and clubs in the Davie Village.

After last year’s 4 am closing experiment, city staff recommended Nov 18 that council seek permission from the province to adopt a new system of closing times for bars and clubs.

The new system would allow bars in different neighbourhoods to open and close at different times. The idea is that bars in residential areas would close earlier than bars in areas that are more commercialized. Clubs along Granville St would be allowed to stay open the latest, while the gay bars along Davie St would have to close up to an hour earlier than their Granville counterparts.

The Odyssey, located on the eastern edge of the Village on Howe St, would have to close up to two hours earlier than Granville St bars because of the residences around it.

The city’s plan is a concern for several Davie Village bar owners because, they say, it fails to take into account the special needs of the gay community. They say the city’s plan could put queer party places and watering holes, especially the Odyssey, at a disadvantage compared to straight clubs on Granville.

“We need to have the same hours as Davie St,” says Odyssey co-owner Michael Levy, and “Davie St needs to have the same hours as Granville St because Davie is the gay entertainment district.”

Levy thinks the city’s plan would discriminate against gay nightlife.

“Gay people start to party later at night than straight people and they want to party in their own parts of the city,” he says. “It’s not fair to have to close our bars earlier.”

If queers in the city want to party late into the night, their only option under the new plan would be to go over to Granville.

That won’t work, says Celebrities promoter Mark Woods. The Davie Village needs to host the gay bars and clubs and it’s not realistic to expect queer people to party on Granville St, he says.

“Granville is not exactly a safe, positive place for a gay establishment,” he adds.

When city officials presented their recommendations to council on Nov 18, council directed them to re-examine the closing times for the Davie Village and the Odyssey with a view to bringing them in line with those of the Granville Entertainment District.

City staff are now asking for input from city residents and will present their findings and revised recommendations to council on Apr 28.

Staff held an open house Mar 23 at the Central Presbyterian Church on Thurlow St where interested parties could share their feelings on the idea of keeping the Odyssey and other Davie Village bars open later.

City policy analyst Karen Hoese says about 80 people registered at the meeting. Some people were for the idea of the Odyssey and the other Village bars getting equal hours with Granville St, she says, and some people were against.

Xtra West attended but had trouble finding any opposition to the later hours idea.

Hoese says it’s really too early to tell what recommendations will come from the public consultation but, she says, it’s never been the city’s intention to cut back hours. She says city staff are looking at what can be done to accommodate the gay community’s needs, including the needs of the Odyssey.

The city will continue to accept public input on the idea until Apr 8. Community members who would like the Odyssey and the other gay bars in the Davie Village to be allowed to serve alcohol and stay open as long as the straight bars on Granville St can send their input to the city.