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,
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.