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VPS to consult businesses about Davie Street party

Lower fences welcomed but more open concept urged for 2015

After last-minute negotiations with the city, the Vancouver Pride Society dropped its usual six-foot-tall barricades this year in favour of four-foot fences around the Davie Street party’s beer garden. Credit: Danny Gray Fox

The Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) plans to reduce fencing and increase the participation of Davie Village businesses at next year’s Davie Street party, general manager Ray Lam says.

“We knew the possibilities with the new model, but we did not have enough time to implement it this year,” he adds.

In April, the provincial government updated special-occasion-licence policies so that events like the Davie Street party no longer require fenced-in beer gardens as long as there is a perimeter barrier, such as fenced-off streets or buildings so that people don’t take their alcohol outside the licensed area.

Vince Marino, co-owner of the Junction and PumpJack pubs, says the new regulations will allow for a more community-oriented and -integrated street party.

“We’ve always pushed for an open street where you block off the corners, and in the corners you place the entertainment at the various blocks and only have the fences there to restrict entry,” he says. “They could make entrance by donation and basically let the businesses do their stuff inside of the area and also allow for the free flow of shoppers.”

In 2014, the street party included a beer garden between Thurlow and Burrard streets, as well as two blocks of open space with vendor tables, carnival games and an all-ages dancefloor at Davie and Bute.

“The comments from most people in this area, including ourselves, is that the 2014 event was more open than it’s ever been,” Marino says. “I’ve heard the same comments at the lower end as well, but there were still problems.”

Andrew Parker, owner of The Dish, says the fences on his block have had a negative impact on businesses that do not serve alcohol.

“Businesswise it kills us, even the lower fences, because it blocks people from being able to walk freely,” he says. “Also, they have a stage at Davie and Thurlow, which bottlenecks people near Starbucks and Denny’s. You have 300 people on one sidewalk. It was just ridiculous and, as far as I was concerned, a security nightmare.”

Marino says he would like to receive more notice from the VPS in order to adequately prepare for the street party.

“We got a letter from the Pride board maybe two and a half weeks prior to the Friday night that the beer garden was going to be,” he says. “The letter said that our part of the street was open and offered us an opportunity to set something up in front of our establishment before they opened it up to other vendors. It’s a good process, but two, three or even four weeks to do anything and us being a licensed establishment makes it impossible.”

Lam says that the VPS is working with the West End Business Improvement Association to offer free vendor spaces to businesses that are affected by the event.

“In a couple of weeks, we will have meetings with businesses along the street and interested stakeholders to ensure they have their say in what 2015 looks like,” he says. “We want to make sure that businesses benefit from our presence and that we are not just another visitor passing through.”

New West Pride president Ian Gould says the open-street model of their Columbia Street festival, which took place Aug 16, was a huge success for area merchants.

“I was told by one of the venues that they had the best day in three years since the new owners had purchased the establishment,” he says. “New West Pride itself just hosted the street festival but not the beer gardens; all the business was held by the business owners themselves. We did not make a penny from the liquor-licence extensions at any of the venues, but it gave us an opportunity to bring the festival to the community.”

Lam says the VPS is unlikely to forgo the revenue from ticket and alcohol sales, which supports many Pride events.

“I don’t know what New West Pride’s model was or [how] they were able to do it, but our expenses are very high with regards to this event,” he says. “We rely on fundraisers to make the events work, and almost all of these are free and open to the public.”

Councillor Tim Stevenson says the city will work to ensure that everybody’s interests are understood and maximized.

“The important thing is what’s best for the community — the overall GLBT community in Vancouver — and how do we bring that about and how do we meet all the competing interests,” he says. “Obviously, the Pride Society would be concerned about losing money if the liquor outlets get all the profits. So how would that money be made up? Somehow if the Pride Society is not getting those revenues, they have to get those revenues somewhere else.”