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UPDATE: City shuts down Iron Rod Pride party

Whoever complained 'did a disservice to everyone': Peters

"I feel like the big guys have stepped on the little guys," says Iron Rod co-organizer, Quinn Peters.

UPDATE: August 5, 4:25pm

Vancouver’s licence coordinator says the Open Studios space booked for the Iron Rod Pride party was only ever approved for post-production “wrap-up” parties limited to 40 people.

“This space is not permitted for an assembly use,” Lucia Cumerlato told Xtra.

Cumerlato must be going by “the letter of the licence,” says Iron Rod co-organizer Quinn Peters. The previous inspector that Open Studios used to deal with may have had a more lenient interpretation of the licence, he suggests.

Ben Reeder, who leases Open Studios, says the previous chief license inspector gave him permission to host parties for up to 150 people.

“Unfortunately, there has been a change of guard at city hall and apparently the last fire inspector was too lenient in his assessment of the safety of our exits,” Reeder posted in a comment to this story on August 5.

Peters says he met with Reeder two days before Iron Rod was scheduled to take place and everything seemed fine — until the city received a complaint and requested a meeting. He and Reeder met with Cumerlato, a fire inspector and a police officer the following day.

A fire inspector shut the venue down for lack of adequate fire exits on Friday.

“Basically, the city is doing their job,” Peters says. “It’s unfortunate but I understand. If the city gets a letter, they’re going to have to investigate.”

It’s the alleged complainant he’s disappointed in, he says.

“I think there’s more constructive ways to deal with this,” he says, adding the organizers could have worked together to push for more venues and more flexible hours.

The real problem, Peters says, is the lack of venues and liquor licence options in Vancouver.

“We looked for months to find a venue that was suitable for us,” he says of the queer Spit parties he usually organizes.

Peters wants to see more venues, more options to host events that are not on Granville St. Eastside options that can be rented for one-time parties and can legally stay open later than 2 am.

“Vancouver markets itself as an international city but then they say, ‘You have to stop partying at 2am” and you’re only allowed to party in “mandated areas,” he says.

As for the complaint that triggered the fire inspection, Cumerlato says that came through “the Liquor Licensing Branch, who received a complaint regarding the event not having proper approvals.”

A spokesperson for the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch says it does not release the names of people who make inquiries.

Iron Rod organizers have filed a Freedom of Information request to find out who filed the complaint.

UPDATE: August 3, 1:30pm

Vancouver deputy fire chief, Les Sziklai, confirms one of his staff inspected the Open Studios space last week and shut it down.

“One critical flaw is it has only one available exit,” he says.

“There is no slack in this,” Sziklai adds, explaining city regulations state a venue must have more than one proper exit if an event is expected to exceed 59 people.

Iron Rod organizers were expecting more than 160 people to attend their Pride party until a snap fire inspection — allegedly triggered by a complaint from a rival party promoter — shut the space down just hours before the party was scheduled to begin.

Until now the city has been somewhat lax with people seeking special event licensing permits, Sziklai reveals.

“They don’t do individual inspections for special occasion licensing. There’s just not enough time, there hasn’t been enough manpower or staff,” he says, adding “sometimes things slide through.”

In the future, Sziklai says the city plans to scrutinize spaces seeking special event permits more closely.

“As a city we do want the functions but we want to make sure they’re safe,” he says.

As for the identity of the complainant, Sziklai says he hasn’t heard anything about a complaint to the city regarding the Iron Rod venue. But he says public complaints are the primary reasons behind impromptu building inspections.

Jul 31, 1am:

Just hours before it was set to host a Pride party, city officials shut down an Eastside venue for allegedly not being up to par on fire code. But organizers say infighting among gay party producers is really to blame.

“I feel like the big guys have stepped on the little guys,” says Iron Rod co-organizer Quinn Peters.
 
“They [the city] ruled that the building was inappropriate for occupancy,” Peters says, explaining that city inspectors objected to the size of the venue’s fire exits.
 
But the snap inspection was triggered by a complaint from a competing Pride party organizer, Iron Rod organizers believe.
 
Peters says he met with city licensing officials, fire inspectors, a Vancouver Police Department representative and the owner of the space just days prior to the event and was given the go-ahead with a temporary city permit.
 
The permit allowed Iron Rod to operate in Open Studios on Main St until 4am, with liquor served until 2am, despite the need to update the building’s adherence to fire code.
 
Ben Reeder, who leases the Open Studios space, confirms the city shut down his venue on Friday.
 
He too says he met with the city earlier this week and was given the green light to hold a special event liquor licence.
 
“Everything was a go,” he says, “but the fire inspector says we didn’t meet the requirements.”
 
“They put a cease and desist notice on our door” just hours before Iron Rod was set to begin, he says.
 
Attempts to contact the city for comment on Friday night were unsuccessful.
 
Reeder says he has been operating under a temporary verbal agreement with the city for the past six years. During that time, he says he has hosted nearly 200 arts, film and music events.
 
Reeder says he thought the city’s verbal approval would be sufficient, as it had been until now.
 
Reeder says he updated the fire extinguishers and refurbished the venue’s panic bars on the doors, but is looking at $10-25,000 to enlarge the building’s fire exits and install sprinkler systems.
 
Reeder says the fire inspector told him the inspection was triggered by a written complaint from another Pride event promoter allegedly concerned about Iron Rod’s permission to operate late.
 
The identity of the alleged complainant was not disclosed.
 
“It’s infighting,” Peters maintains. “It’s cat fighting.”
 
“Pride seems that it’s not about culture,” he continues. “It’s about money.”
 
It’s a “gay turf” war, he says.
 
“It seems that our city doesn’t welcome anything different than the norm,” adds Iron Rod co-organizer Brandon Gaukel.
 
Iron Rod was intended to offer an alternative to the usual West End events planned for Pride, Gaukel explains.
 
“My heart is sad,” he says. “We spent the last four hours looking for another venue and found no such thing in the time we had.”
 
Peters and Gaukel say the 160 pre-sold tickets to Iron Rod will be refunded at Little Sister’s and Priape. They ask that consumers return their tickets to their point of purchase.