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The Village gets virtual boost

More bees with honey

VIRTUAL NETWORK. Bonnie McDougall explains Ottawa Kiosk to an onlooker at LGX, Ottawa's gay and lesbian expo. Credit: Peter Fritz

Business savvy ladies and gents are placing their bets on a gay village in Ottawa.

The popular tourism and advertising website Ottawa Kiosk is creating a Gay Village neighbourhood icon for its main page — partly to market to the rainbow dollar and partly to bring the Bank Street Business Improvement Association around to the idea of a Village. The move is being spearheaded by lesbian Ottawa Kiosk staffer Bonnie McDougall.

The Village icon will join those of other established Ottawa business areas like the Sparks Street Mall, Somerset Village and the Byward Market.

“This move sends a message to the BIA, businesses and city council,” says Village activist Glenn Crawford. “Savvy business people are recognizing that a Village would be viable, profitable and money-making.”

This move — still in the planning stages — would lend the “bottom-up” credibility that the Bank Street Business Improvement Area (Bank St BIA) asked Village activists to demonstrate.

McDougall says the idea came to her while she was running on a treadmill at her health club.

“I had been tossing the thought about and I had previously spoken with management about the possibility of marketing to the ‘rainbow dollar’. They were on board immediately, ” she says.

“In speaking with others in the community, the idea of a virtual or e-Village was greeted with enthusiasm by all, so I knew I was on to something good.”

The website, which touts itself as a one-stop guide to Ottawa, offers free business listings to shops, restaurants, bars and other services as well as  a chance to upgrade their ads at an additional cost.

McDougall says grouping business ads under the neighbourhood icon would make planning visits to Ottawa easier for out-of-towners.

“Think of how many more people we might attract for next year’s Pride Celebrations,” she says.

Crawford says he didn’t jump on the idea right away because he was thinking of creating an interactive e-Village himself and because he wants to be sure that partnering with the website is a financial help to the Village cause.

“We need to iron out just exactly how the Village can make money off of this,” he says.

The Village needs money for tangible neighbourhood markers like rainbow flags.

Gerry Lepage, executive director of the Bank Street BIA, was unavailable for comment.

Toronto and Vancouver — where Gay Villages are well-established in on Toronto’s Church St and Vancouver’s West End areas — also have kiosk websites; however, Ottawa’s would be the first to have a Gay Village listings category.