To the rhythm of a bass beat reverberating through concrete walls, three women are wrestling in lingerie on a raised dais. A naked woman with a riding crop casually swats at the flanks of a well-muscled man, himself busy giving a vigorous blowjob to his friend suspended in a black nylon harness. On the couch in the corner, a woman pulls her rainbow stockinged knees to her purple-tipped hair to accommodate her date’s face between her legs, while an apparition in black latex and demon horns parades past, collared and leashed companion in tow.
Through it all dodges Zoll Ruskin, the co-owner of 8×6, brimming with energy even though it would be his last night running the club.
After three years, Ruskin closed 8×6’s doors on Oct 29, 2016.
But he promises his dream of a play space to unite Vancouver’s sex-positive, kink and fetish communities is not over. He’ll be back, he says, and soon.
The club “was monumental in galvanizing the sex-positive community in Vancouver,” Ruskin says, insisting that despite the closure, 8×6 was a successful experiment. He says he’s proud to have hosted such a variety of sex-positive groups, from men’s masturbation circles to swingers to PLUR, the burner fetish sex-positive party that closed out the club’s schedule last year.
“The model wasn’t perfect,” he admits. “It’s hard to create a business plan when you’re blazing a new trail. You can’t really predict how things are going to go.”
Ruskin says he closed the club because of inconsistent revenues and an unsustainable business model, but most importantly because of problems with the space, a refurbished parking garage at Haro and Denman Streets where floods and plumbing problems forced the last-minute cancellation of some events and required frequent repairs.
He says he’ll announce his next project early in 2017. For now he’s hanging on to the club’s most prized asset: a private member’s club licence from the City of Vancouver. The rare licence gives the holder the privilege to advertise liquor sales and sex parties at the same time, serve drinks later, and host dancing all night.
Ruskin opened 8×6 with his business partner Peter Pavlovic in the summer of 2013 in the location that once housed the historic Denman Station Club. For a year they survived in a legal grey zone, licensed awkwardly as a fitness club. Then, in the fall of 2014, The National Post published a breathless editorial about 8×6 hosting masturbation parties within blocks of a school and a library, and deriding Vancouver for its permissiveness. The city responded by tacitly backing 8×6, giving them a coveted private club licence and telling the Post that whatever happened inside was “not our department.”
Despite the end of 8×6, Ruskin says there is still plenty of community support for a sex-positive venue, and that he has had nothing but good relationships with the police and the city.
“Really at the end of the day it was: do we continue going around in circles like this, or do we make a decision to close and start 2.0,” he says.