Fountainhead gay bar won red tape battle with town hall

Bert Hick: ‘An outdated, ridiculous, ridiculous policy that no other city in the world has’

“I have to ask the question: why are we here?

That’s how Bert Hick opened his remarks to City Council on Tuesday as a consultant for the Fountainhead Pub, whose owner Michel Duprat was looking to expand the popular gay bar at 1025 Davie Street.

Hick and Duprat’s request was to knock down a wall in an adjacent vacant building (formerly Mailbox Plus) to increase the pub’s indoor capacity from 111 customers to 255 and the patio from 36 to 64.

“What we’re talking about is just an increase in capacity for a neighborhood pub that’s been around for over 20 years and has an impeccable track record,” said Hick, president of Rising Tide Consultants.

“I would also like to suggest that the council seriously consider asking staff to get rid of this outdated, ridiculous and ridiculous policy that no other city in the world has. I mean, do I need to be a little clearer about how I feel about this policy? This is absolutely stupid, quite frankly.

“Good neighbor agreement”

The policy basically boils down to this: if another bar with a class three license – in this case Numbers Cabaret opposite the Fountainhead – is within 100 yards of a bar looking to expand its business, then it does not does not align with the city’s distancing requirements.

Unable to tear down the wall and expand would mean Fountainhead would need a separate business license, a separate ‘Good Neighbor Agreement’ and would have to run a separate business alongside, even if it is is from the same company.

Make sense ?

Council heard from Sarah Hicks, the city’s chief licensing inspector, who said making a one-time exception for Fountainhead’s proposed increase to 255 people ‘could introduce uncertainty into the process and assessment requests from the city.

“The aim of the policy is to maintain the density and distribution of pubs and nightclubs throughout the city, thereby maintaining a general number and size of establishments appropriate to a neighborhood or area,” Hicks said. “Staff apply the policy consistently.”

“It’s pretty, quite depressing”

John Clerides owns Numbers Cabaret and told the board he had no problem with the proposed Fountainhead expansion. Neither the owner of Celebrity Nightclub nor the West End Business Improvement Association.

“We are two completely different companies and we complement each other,” said Clerides, who went on to say that the staff report regarding the expansion did not consider development in the region and that more people would seek establishments such as his and the Fountain.

“If this request is refused, they will simply go elsewhere. At one time in Vancouver when I started going out, we had 22-23 gay bars, now we’re down to four. It’s pretty, quite depressing.

The proposal also received support from Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association, and Jeff Guignard, executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees.

Tostenson echoed some of Hick’s comments about Fountainhead and said it was a “great, long-standing business”, which has served the Davie Village community for more than 20 years.

“So we’re obviously 100% in favor of this app to increase capacity in the easiest way possible,” Tostenson said. “I don’t think we need to make it any more complicated than it is.”

“This one drives me crazy”

Guignard prefaced his remarks by saying it was “relatively unusual” for him to get involved with just one app, noting that his organization champions the interests of private liquor stores, pubs, nightclubs and bars in hotels.

“This one is driving me crazy, so I felt compelled – in this case – to offer a few points for the board’s consideration,” said Guignard, who lamented the loss of B.C. businesses to because of the financial hit of Covid-19 on the industry.

“About 15% of our industry is already gone, and another 10-15% don’t know if they’ll survive the end of the year once summer activities slow down.”

What council heard from Duprat was that the Fountainhead was born out of the belief that a pub was needed in the West End to serve the LGBTQ2+ community. He said the pub facing the street was the first of its kind 22 years ago.

“The pub hasn’t changed its outlook since then,” Duprat said. “It’s a safe space for anyone who crosses our threshold.”

Over the years the pub has sponsored several LGBTQ2+ teams and leagues such as the West End Slowpitch Association, the Cutting Edges hockey team and the Vancouver Gay Volleyball Association.

The pub has also held many fundraisers.

$100,000 in rental costs

Duprat noted that the Fountainhead expansion application was submitted to the city in May 2021. Without action for more than a year, Duprat said he paid $100,000 in rental fees for the neighboring building, which he described as “a very expensive locker. ”

The board also heard from Vince Marino, one of Fountainhead’s early investors and current owner of the Pumpjack Pub and Junction Public House, who recalled that he and his business partners had to wait three years for the board to approve the Fountainhead opening.

“We had actually filed for bankruptcy, we actually went through a bankruptcy process because that’s what happened to keep our rental area going for three years,” Marino said. “But we’ve seen each other through and we’re here.”

“Use common sense”

The Council had heard enough.

In a motion proposed by Con. Lisa Dominato, council unanimously approved the Fountainhead expansion, but not before some criticism of politics and the need to “cut red tape” at City Hall.

“I just want to apologize to Vince and Michel for the trouble, frustration, time and effort this has caused you, especially as we come out of the pandemic and want to have a fun and vibrant city “Coun said. Melissa De Genova. “We want to make sure things are easier, not harder for you.”

Com. Sarah Kirby-Yung: “I’ll speak frankly: I feel that if we accept the existing recommendation [to have two separate business licences] it would really be like using common sense. At some point, we need to create an environment where it’s actually easy to do business. »

Com. Adriane Carr: “Policies don’t always apply to all places. The uniqueness of a place like Village Davie must be taken into consideration if the policy does not work for what is on offer. And we need to hear about it, understand it, and make sure that what’s being asked for is what will work.

Council directed staff to review location and distance guidelines for liquor establishments and report back in 2023 on options and recommendations for updating and modernizing the city’s liquor rules. of alcohol.

Meanwhile, Duprat said he was glad common sense prevailed.

“It’s just been a really long process,” he said, when joined in his pub on Thursday.

Now he has to apply for a building permit…

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About James K. Bonnette

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