3 min

Sept 5 is Odyssey’s last hurrah on Howe St

No new place yet but owners looking to finalize offer soon, manager says

"We got our notice from the city that let us know they're going to be moving forward with the project that everyone knows about - for housing," the club's manager, Will McGuire, told Xtra on July 22. Credit: Shauna Lewis

Mark your calendars. On Sept 5, legendary gay stomping ground The Odyssey will close its doors after more than 25 years at its Howe St location.

“As we were expecting two years ago, we got our notice from the city that let us know they’re going to be moving forward with the project that everyone knows about – for housing,” the club’s manager, Will McGuire, told Xtra on July 22.

The Odyssey first got word in May 2008 that its lease was being terminated because of a joint city-province agreement to build 110 units of supportive housing for HIV-positive people on the site.

Since that notice, the start of construction had been delayed because of a lack of provincial funding. However, the BC government finally announced on May 25 that it had allocated just over $22 million to the long-awaited project, effectively signalling the end of the club’s many leases on life.

Funding for the Howe St development is part of a three-way $225-million investment partnership among the province, the City of Vancouver and Streetohome Foundation that will see 1,006 new supportive housing units go up on eight sites owned by the city.

“Originally, we were given till the end of August,” McGuire reveals, “but we really felt strongly that we wanted to hold a really great final party and make it feel really sort of official. So we asked about the possibility about extending it to the Labour Day weekend, and they were accommodating about that.”

“We’ll do our best to make sure we see absolutely everyone that we can during Pride and during our last month,” he adds, “because I know everyone’s going to want to get in and party as much as they can during that period.”

“There will absolutely be a Feather Boa show on September 5. Joan-E will have the last word, and somehow that seems fitting,” notes McGuire, who’s been at The Odyssey for five years.

Then there’s going to be a mourning period, he says.

“There’s not a replacement for it opening up around the corner on September 6, which is the really unfortunate thing,” McGuire says.

“There’s a real sense of loss, and I think our customers are feeling that, our staff is feeling that. At the same time, it’s important for everyone to realize it’s certainly not over in its entirety yet,” McGuire hints.

He says the owners are “looking at finalizing an offer on a place at the moment.”

Further information about that will be forthcoming “as the timing becomes more appropriate,” McGuire says, declining to reveal the location of the potential new space, except to say that it’s “in the downtown area.”

McGuire says the space in question is one that the club has been the most hopeful about.

“We certainly haven’t gone this far with anything other than the Denman location last year,” he notes.

The Odyssey’s attempt to win city approval to relocate to Denman St in 2009 was nixed after city council bowed to public pressure from neighbours, who complained about anticipated noise pollution.

McGuire says the search for new digs has been ongoing since 2008, but it has been incredibly difficult to find an appropriate location.

“We’re not just looking to start a new business,” he points out. “We’re looking to transplant an existing business which has a lot more requirements than just moving a licence.”

It depends what space is secured, says McGuire, when asked if The Odyssey will be relocated before the end of the year.

“It obviously takes a lot less time to move into a space that’s an existing club than a space where you would have to create a club,” he points out.

Though the building permit is still not in hand, a BC Housing spokesperson says the club’s demolition is expected to begin in late September or early October.