The PumpJack Pub has been described in many ways since it opened in December 2000 in the heart of the Davie Village. Some have called it a leather bar. Others have labelled it a bear bar, referring to its more hirsute clients. Both terms appeared in the original licensing application, according to co-owner Vince Marino. But today, Marino says he prefers to describe the PumpJack at 1167 Davie Street as a “community bar” for the West End.
“It's where you come to meet your friends,” he said.
Marino added that the PumpJack has raised $185,000 for worthy causes over the past five years, including more than $30,000 for HIV/AIDS organizations. When Larry Campbell was mayor, he showed up at the pub one year for a Cops for Cancer event to get his head shaved. “He was in here and ended up with what I understand was a little... hand on his butt,” Marino quipped.
During the 1970s and early 1980s, the West End became the centre of the local sex trade, until neighbourhood activists, including future NPA councillor Gordon Price, persuaded provincial and municipal governments to move the prostitutes out. The city blocked off certain roads, preventing johns from circling endlessly around the neighbourhood. Brian Smith, the Social Credit attorney general at the time, obtained a court order forcing prostitutes to ply their trade east of Seymour Street.
During that era, a series of restaurants existed on the PumpJack site, including Benjamin's and Doll & Penny's Café. In 1994, Marino and partner Steve Bauer bought Doll & Penny's, a late-night hangout that sometimes featured live entertainment.
“Michael Bublé did one event here,” Marino recalled.
By the late 1990s, Doll & Penny's was fighting the city's antismoking bylaw, winning a surprising victory in Provincial Court. The decision was overturned in B.C. Supreme Court, and the restaurant lost in the B.C. Court of Appeal.
Even as they battled the city, Marino and Bauer went ahead with plans to get licensing for a neighbourhood pub on the site. Since then, Marino has occasionally become involved in other political issues, such as lobbying for late-night bar openings and promoting the Pride festival.
In advance of the Pride parade on Sunday (August 6), the PumpJack is hosting a leather party on Friday (August 4) and an underwear party on Saturday (August 5).