3 min

Vancouver celebrates first Gay Mardi Gras

Bars, clubs come together for The Centre

COMMUNITY PUB CRAWL: Ricardo Card (from left), Kyle Fereme and James Mulla joined hundreds of partygoers in the Davie Village Feb 24 for the bars' inaugural Gay Mardi Gras celebrations. Credit: TJ Ngan photo

The Centre on Bute St will be the recipient of approximately $5,000 raised Feb 24 as part of the first annual Gay Mardi Gras celebration in the Davie Village. Organizer James Steck spearheaded the event and says it was an evening to remember.

“It was absolutely amazing,” Steck says. “Everyone seemed to have a really good time, there was a lot of positive feedback, a lot of tourists in town that came up for it and everyone wants to see it expand next year.”

Davie Village businesses, such as Little Sister’s and Priape, sold wristbands for $10 each that, if purchased, got you food discounts at Sugar Daddy’s, the Oasis, the Fountainhead Pub and the PumpJack Pub, as well as line privileges and a waived cover charge at Odyssey, Numbers and Celebrities. One hundred percent of proceeds raised with the wristbands were donated to The Centre.

Knowing that the money spent on the wristband was going to support The Centre seemed to make a big difference with several people as they were headed out to enjoy their Friday night.

“Well, the fact that the wristbands were for charity made us buy it. I’m here with another gay man and two straight women,” says partygoer Gerard Egan, just starting his evening at the Oasis. “They were totally for a good cause.”

“I think it’s a great fundraiser. It’s only $10, it’s very reasonable,” says Allen Schofield, enjoying his evening at Numbers. “We were at the Oasis, and the food discount was great and I think they had drink specials, too. So we had food and a few drinks, and then we came to Numbers.”

“I think that we realize that we want to support the community, and we’re going to spend the $10 whether we go to one bar or 10 bars,” Egan says. “We’re going to do what we have to do to make the community a better place.”

The wristbands also added a dimension that most participants considered a relic of bygone times: bar-hopping. Thanks to the cover waiver the wristbands afforded, people were able to go from venue to venue without the worry of extra cost.

“Anything that is going to build a stronger community is a positive,” says off-duty Fountainhead manager Andrew Watling, out enjoying the evening. “I’ve seen lots of people that are normally not here on a Friday night because of Mardi Gras. They are getting to experience three or four different bars-it’s almost like a community-oriented pub crawl.

“We all did them at university,” he explains. “It’s a night where you don’t have to go out and spend $20 in cover to go to different bars.”

The unseasonably cold weather didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of those who were out. But the only costume most people were sporting was a heavy coat, gloves and a tuque.

“I don’t think the cold weather kept anyone at home,” Steck says. “Every bar was busy and most had a lineup. I would have liked to have seen more people dress up. Maybe the weather had something to do with that. But the first year, people want to see how it works, so maybe next year we’ll get more people dressing up.”

As can be expected, not everything ran smoothly. Celebrities and Numbers still had wristband-wearing customers standing in lines, while others complained about the lack of costumes and decorations.

“When we came here to Numbers, they wouldn’t let us through the front door,” Schofield says. “It’s supposed to be line privileges, but they wouldn’t let us go ahead. So we just came over to the back door and they let us right in.”

“If a nightclub is at capacity, you can’t shove more people in,” Steck explains. “If everyone with a wristband went to Celebrities, you can’t have everyone going in. I would have hoped that they would have gotten to the front of the line and gotten in first. Hopefully, now that each club has experience in doing this, next year we can make it better.”

With February routinely being the slowest month of the year for bar and club business in the Davie Village, the success of Gay Mardi Gras looks to become a yearly event that not only helps out local businesses, but also The Centre.

“I would like to see it expand more,” Steck says. “Some of the comments I received were ‘why wasn’t there a parade?’ So maybe next year, a thought would be to have a parade in the Village.”

“I’d like to see them add more contests for the beads!” Schofield says. “The beads are a lot of fun. At the Oasis, one of the waitresses flashed us to get some beads, so that was fun!”