Gay clubs build community in Vancouver

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If you ask former NPA councillor Alan Herbert, he’ll tell you that gay clubs are still very relevant in Vancouver’s social fabric.

In a phone interview with the Georgia Straight, the openly gay one-term politician explained his theory that Vancouver is host to “two capital cities”: Chinatown and Davie Village.

“Each is doing exactly the same thing for their respective communities,” the 63-year-old Herbert said. “Chinatown was the capital city to all of the Chinese in Vancouver; all of the institutions were there. They have now spread.”

He said a similar phenomenon is occurring in the gay community. Davie Village is home to social services provided by the Centre and a whole range of entertainment venues, bars, and nightclubs. He said this physical concentration will not be duplicated in places like Surrey and Richmond.

“The Fountainhead Pub is a general kind of bar,” Herbert said, noting downtown’s gay spots. “It is identified for the gay community, but by no means exclusive to it. There is the Pumpjack, which tends to focus on the leather-and-blue-jean crowd. Then there is the Majestic, which has a stage and they do shows. And there is a cocktail lounge where you can go in, and they do entertainment.”¦And we need more.”

However, the iconic Odyssey is preparing to leave its Howe Street home to make way for social housing later this year, and the hotel formerly known as the Dufferin no longer hosts a gay bar on Seymour Street, something that irks West End resident and COPE park board commissioner Spencer Herbert. He is the sole declared candidate for the provincial NDP’s nomination in the new Vancouver–West End riding ahead of the 2009 election.

“I kind of miss the Dufferin,” Herbert told the Straight by phone. “It was a place where you had a total mixture of incomes and backgrounds. It was probably due to the cheap beer and the fact there were a lot of charity events.”

He added, “I think gay bars are often seen as scenester-type places, but I’ve had a lot of political conversations there. Also, straight girlfriends of mine prefer going to them because they’re not getting preyed upon by horny men.”

After a frustrating wait for a liquor licence following the 2007 civic workers’ strike, Majestic co-owners Steve Bauer and Vince Marino are hoping their nightclub’s new Davie Street location will be a success as it awaits its “official” launch on Pride weekend.

“I believe there is still the [demand for] late-night dancing and people wanting to go out and socialize, and there are opportunities for DJs to put their music up there, and there will always be people wanting to get up and dance,” Bauer told the Straight, seated in the lush Majestic lounge during some rare downtime.

Marino, who is also co-owner of the Pumpjack with Bauer, said that “for the gay community, clubs have been, number one, places for people to meet.”

“I think that was more so in the past”¦simply because of safety or security, and they understood what was going on inside,” Marino said. “I think now, with what the gay community has achieved in [same-sex] legislation in the process, people are much more comfortable being able to go far and wide in other clubs. But in the end, there is still a gay space to be yourself and the way you want to be, which is still as relevant today as it was years ago.”

The Majestic will kick off its busy 2008 Pride weekend with a beer garden out front, starting at 2 p.m. on Thursday (July 31), followed that evening by a “Pride Edition” show by Tranny Force (cover is $10). New York City’s DJ Hector Fonseca takes the floor on Saturday night (August 2), and DJ Escape appears on Sunday (August 3).

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