Happy Pride, Bimini's is a queer bar now

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      You may know Bimini’s on West 4th as a Donnelly Group bar full of pinball machines, UBC students, and sports bros. But new owner Shae Lamba is here to change all that, as she’s rebranding the neighbourhood watering hole into a queer bar. 

      The lack of dedicated queer spaces in Vancouver was a “shock,” Shae tells the Straight in an interview upstairs at the bar. (She asked that we use her first name for quotes.) A Progress Pride flag is visible out the window, hanging on the pub’s exterior. “That was the reason I [made] a decision to make a safe space for us, because we people need some space. Someone has to do it, so why not me?”

      Shae’s planning on running real-world get-togethers at Bimini’s with the branding House of Queer. It’s kicking off on June 29 with a sunset yacht party, hosted by Xanax with DJ Diego Valente and burlesque from Lynx Chase.

      “If straight people can have yacht parties… why the hell not queer people?” Shae says. “There’s a huge void, I found the last few months, about our community, over here in Vancouver. If I can, I’ll see what all I can [offer], and let’s see how they respond.”

      Shae moved to Vancouver from Los Angeles earlier this year, taking over Bimini’s in February and beginning the rebrand in earnest in March. It’s been a slow process, she says, dealing with city regulations, repainting the interior and frontage, removing the striped awnings, and getting the word out that the bar is changing. After taking down most of the artwork and stripping back on the number of arcade machines, she’s left with a large portrait of a sad horse that she hopes to cover with an LGBTQ2S+ mural. 

      “A lot of people are like, ‘Wait, Bimini’s? It’s always a straight bar, are you sure?’” Shae laughs. “I’m like, ‘What do you mean, am I sure? I own the place!’” 

      The new Bimini’s isn’t the first lesbian bar that’s existed in Vancouver—or even in Kitsilano. An Xtra Magazine article from 2012 notes that “Vancouver MS” on 4th Avenue became “the first licensed lesbian club owned and operated by lesbians” when it opened at the height of the neighbourhood’s hippie heyday in 1974, though it’s hard to tell what became of an establishment with such an SEO-unfriendly name.

      In the late ’60s and early ’70s, Champagne Charlie’s—run by slick-haired butch Charlie—operated out of a basement on Davie Street. And more recently, Lick Club provided a lesbian haven at the edge of Gastown for nearly a decade between 2003 and 2011. Lick’s former home is now memorialized with a Pride plaque on its outside wall.  

      East Side Studio’s Birdhouse exists as a queer women and trans people-focused events space, and there are countless other pop-up nights: Hershe, Lips, Babes on Babes, or even sapphic shows at more mainstream gay bars like Junction. But a lesbian bar—especially a pub-style one, that’s open all day, and welcomes families or youth before 10pm—hasn’t had a brick-and-mortar home in recent years. 

      “When it comes to having a legit space, where people know they can walk into that space any time of the day, they don’t have to wait for the event to happen—if someone is having a bad Monday, and they want to hang out in a safe space… they know there is a House of Queer, we can go there,” Shae says.   

      Since the new ownership, queer events have already started at Bimini’s. A monthly family-friendly drag brunch, hosted by Xanax, takes place monthly. Weekly sapphic socials happen on Thursday nights, and Lips is hosting Friday night parties for the broad lesbian and queer women community every month. There’s also weekly Wednesday night karaoke, hosted by Triumphent. Closer to Pride there’s even more events, including a trans health fundraising party on August 3.

      “People are excited,” Shae adds. She says hearing from new patrons who are stoked to have a low-key hang-out space, or a queer bar in their local neighbourhood, has been really heartening. “That’s just the biggest compliment I can think of.”

      It might still be in its burgeoning stages, but fingers crossed on Vancouver’s new gay pub being here to stay.

      Bimini’s Pub and Lounge  

      Where: 2010 West 4th Avenue

      Hours: 12pm to 12am Monday to Thursday, 12pm to 2am Fridays, 11am to 2am Saturdays, 11am to 12pm Sundays

      Instagram: @biminispub