Toronto
3 min

Who gets control?

Softball commissioner's nose out of joint

GET READY. It's time to be fabulous at Toronto's Pride week, Mon, Jun 18-24. Credit: Xtra files

The gay softball league’s commissioner says Pride stole a big fundraising beer garden right from under the sports group’s nose.



“We were going to do the beer garden this year but the Pride committee took it over and rented the space instead,” says the Cabbagetown Gay Softball League’s George Pratt.



And there’s a suggestion that it all comes down to which big beer company is favoured by the big guys at Pride.



The CGSL had rented the parking lots between Tango and Wilde Oscars for three years – though Pratt won’t say how much money it brought in. Last year, the beer helped pay for the August gay softball world series, held in Toronto.



Pratt says the CGSL arranged for its own liquor licence and got its own sponsor: Molson.



This year Pride rented the parking lot.



Pratt believes that the CGSL’s association with Molson – which also co-sponsored the Gay World Series – lost the league the garden.



“I presume that if the league was sponsored by Labatt’s we would be doing the beer garden this year and Pride wouldn’t have taken the Garden away from us,” says Pratt.



Russell Mathew, Pride’s treasurer, says that the CGSL’s relationship with another beer company was not an issue, but: “Part of our brewery associations complicated the matter, let’s put it that way.”



However, Mathew says Labatt is Pride’s sponsor, the largest “by far.”



The Love Garden is sponsored by Labbatt and Captain Rum (Pride’s first hard liquor sponsor) and is a joint venture between Pride and Team 2002. Team 2002 will supply the volunteers and Pride will pay the group what it would pay a catering company (exactly how much hasn’t been decided yet) plus tips. Team 2002 hopes to raise a chunk of the $25,000 it says it needs for uniforms for Sydney’s Gay Games.



Mathew says Pride rented the lot to ensure it didn’t become a commercial venture. “Before the CGSL started renting it three years ago, it was just a privately run thing. Somebody just rented the lot and ran something as a commercial venture.



“We wanted to make sure that it stays within the community and we had reason to believe that it was not going to be rented to the CGSL this year.”



Mathew isn’t sure why the CGSL wasn’t going to rent the lot, Pride volunteers “just heard this to be the case.”



Both sides agree there was a later offer for the CGSL to participate.



Says Pratt: “They talked to me after they had rented the space and they asked me if I could get volunteers for them and they would not be paid,” meaning the CGSL wouldn’t be offered a cut of the profits.



“The Pride committee wants complete control and that is the issue. And this was an independent venture on the side that they didn’t have control of – and that was what they were looking for.”



No one would tell how much the parking lot costs to rent.



(Molson will be in Provincial Offences Court in February 2002 on liquor act charges of inducement – illegally providing free booze to vendors for the purpose of increasing the distribution of alcohol – at last year’s beer garden. Michelle Robichange, Molson’s manager of marketing PR says that, the company is “definitely fighting the charges.”)



ON THE OTHER HAND



Wellesley St will be dry this year.



Pride’s Wellesley stage will have no fences this year – it will be an alcohol-free street dance.



“While we like to sell beer to support the event, we’re not in the business of trying to make people drink,” says Pride treasurer Russell Mathew.



The Wine Rack pulled its sponsorship of the Wellesley stage just two weeks ago. According to Mathew, this was too late in the game to find another booze backer.



“We just couldn’t make an arrangement with Wine Rack and we had to make a quick decision – this all happened just two weeks ago. So we decided to do this and thought it would be a fun, good idea.”



David Sherwood, the manager of the Wine Rack’s Church-Wellesley and Sherwood stores, made the decision. And Sherwood is unhappy, but won’t talk about it. “We are exploring other options to support the community and that’s all I’ll say.”



Mathew wouldn’t elaborate on the reasons Wine Rack bailed, then places the blame on the lack of profitability of the stage last year.



“With all the infrastructure required to set up an alcoholic beverage sales area, it costs a fair bit of money. And it was a small service area and it only operated for one day instead of two, so it wasn’t very profitable for the alcohol sales part.”