Victoria bartender Terry Jacques and gay rights pioneer Gary Penny will each open a gay bar in Victoria Feb 10.
Penny says his new bar, the Copper Club, located in Paul’s Motor Inn, targets a male clientele.
“I really believe it’s a time where men have their own space to have male dancers and things that relate to men on the TV and so forth, says Penny. “It’s not that we’re against lesbians or anything like that, but we’re gearing towards men.
“Gay bars all used to be like that,” Penny notes, adding that the new space will resemble a Las Vegas lounge where conversation and not dance music takes centre stage.
It’s a business venture that brings Penny out of retirement.
In February 2007 he sold Prism, the only gay bar in Victoria, to long-time customers Terry Bex and Attila Bassett on condition that they would keep the space gay.
“They have not lived up to that commitment,” says Penny who feels that Prism, which was renamed Paparazzi after extensive renovations in 2008, caters more to a “mixed crowd” leaving a vacuum for a dedicated queer space.
Bex maintains that his club is still a gay bar.
“We welcome everybody at the nightclub but it is still advertised as Victoria’s only gay bar,” Bex says. “We’ve never stopped anything. We still have drag shows, we still sponsor Victoria Pride, and we still host the Mr and Mrs Gay Vancouver Island pageant.”
For his part, Bex questions how Penny will keep the Copper Club focused on gay men without excluding others.
“You can’t refuse admission to anyone on sexuality,” says Bex.
Penny maintains he won’t exclude anybody.
“We’re not going to refuse entry. We’re marketing to gay men. It’s as simple as that,” he says.
This is welcome news to Barrie Chamberlin, president of Prime Timers Victoria, a group for gay and bisexual men over 40.
“I know that in our Prime Timers group if we’re together the language and jokes and stories are not something you’d get in a mixed crowd,” he says. “It’s more circumspect than the younger group. We might, for example, tease someone for going for a walk in the park. It’s not the kind of thing you’d do in a mixed establishment.”
Chamberlin is confident the Copper Club will be well received in the community.
“There is a need for another bar in town. We only have the Paparazzi which is in the basement.
“I like to be above ground and look outside, go for a drink on a Sunday or Saturday afternoon and you can see sunshine if there happens to be sunshine that day,” he says.
Retired business owner Jim Kirk says Paparazzi’s nightclub setting with its loud music makes conversation virtually impossible.
“You can’t talk, you can’t hear yourself,” he says, “so then you have to ask, who has the money to drink?
“I’m sure Gary Penny’s bar will appeal to a broader age group,” he adds.
Bex points out that Paparazzi is not just a dance bar.
“We just extended our hours on weekdays,” he says. “We’re open at 1 pm, and we have martini and lounge music where people enjoy afternoon drinks. We have full lottery and Keno at the club pool as well as pool tables. We have quite a few daily customers.”
He says Paparazzi focuses on dance music after 10 pm.
Meanwhile, Penny’s Copper Club will have some competition as friend and former employee Terry Jacques is opening his own bar, The Ledge, at the same time.
The Ledge, named for its proximity to the Legislative Assembly, is located on the mezzanine level of the Bedford Regency Hotel.
Jacques describes The Ledge as “a little restaurant-y” without a restaurant atmosphere.
“There was no gay-specific venue to eat, have a few drinks, and shoot a few games of pool, just a night club,” says Jacques who worked at Paparazzi and its previous incarnations for seven years under three different owners, including Penny and Bex.
Jacques will be co-manage The Ledge with Garrick Head manager Jay Nowak.
While he is clear that this will be a gay bar, Jacques hopes The Ledge will appeal to a wide demographic.
“I’m not going to cater to a straight crowd but I’m not going to turn them away at the door,” he says. “It’s certainly a gay venue.”
Kirk is confident that The Ledge will be a success.
“A new bar is an excellent idea,” he says. “The new Ledge will have full window views and food service.
“That’s a gay bar that’s going to do well.”
The Copper Club, 1900 Douglas St, Victoria.
The Ledge, 1140 Government St, Victoria.
Paparazzi Nightclub, 642 Johnson St, Victoria.