This year's Pride will see the long-awaited return of a cornerstone of Vancouver's LGBT nightlife.
The Odyssey Nightclub, which closed its 1215 Howe Street location (at Davie Street) on September 5, 2010, after over 25 years in operation, is set to relaunch with its first ticketed event on July 30.
After several attempts to find a new location, a site was secured at 686 West Hastings Street, previously inhabited by Pop Opera and the Hard Rock Café. The City of Vancouver issued a building permit for the location, which is under 5,000 square feet, on March 16.
Although the new venue is situated outside the West End, Bijan Ahmadian, who became operator and owner of the Odyssey last September, said by phone that the location was chosen for its accessibility: it's in close proximity to two SkyTrain stations and the SeaBus station, and is also on the Nightbus route.
The new location also reflects how times have also changed for local LGBT communities, as increased social acceptance has reduced LGBT concentration in the West End.
"People have always told us, when we did the consultation around the location, that they wanted to see something outside of Davie Village," he said. "People said that they miss that in the '80s there were a lot of spots around town that we could claim as our own and that's not the case anymore."
Another upside of the new location is that it's not in a residential area (the previous location experienced noise complaints) and is in a concrete building. Consequently, the state-of-the-art sound equipment, including subwoofers making their Western Canadian debut, can be used to its highest capacity.
That all said, there will be throwbacks to the previous incarnation.
Two entrances, including a legal back-alley entrance like the previous location, will help "to process people faster" by reducing any potential bottlenecks created by ID checks or coat check. (Ahmadian said the back-alley entrance may eventually turn into a VIP/members-only entrance.)
The sexy Shower Power, featuring wet and wondrous go-go dancers, is also back, with a shower stall located near the dance floor. (In fact, the July 30 event is a Shower Power night, featuring porn star Brent Everett. An official grand opening will be held after Pride Week, with a specific date yet to be announced.)
Unfortunately, there won't be an outdoor patio like the previous location featured. However, a variety of spaces will include elevated and lowered levels and more intimate areas with lowered ceilings.
Ahmadian described the interior as modern, minimal, industrial décor with a layout designed to be easy to navigate. The main bar, featuring six bartenders, will be circular so that patrons can line up around it.
A multi-purpose steel ceiling grid for equipment has been built strong enough so that even dancers can hang from it. A stage will feature removable railings that can be added when patrons dance on it or removed for performances.
Overall, the space is intended to be versatile and flexible enough to accommodate a variety of events.
Ahmadian emphasized that he intends on making the venue a community hub and performance space. During daytime hours, he says it can be open for functions, such as receptions, and can operate as a rehearsal space for performers.
He said they made the green room as large as possible.
"That's a big sacrifice from a business perspective because green rooms are not part of the licensed area so when you dedicate a space to your green room, you lose occupancy as a result of that…[meaning] that there's a profit margin that you're losing in terms of the number of people that you can bring in to buy drinks," he said. "But we believe that…is really crucial to the community aspect of the space because I believe that a stronger community is built around stronger artistic programming. So we want to make sure that we have the proper infrastructure to support those artists and those performers."
With drag shows and a diverse lineup of DJs, the club will also be open seven nights a week, including on holidays.
Ahmadian called that a "bit of a risk" but "we believe the support is there, we believe the market is there, and we have positioned ourselves as a community hub".
Most of all, Ahmadian said he wants the venue to be about more than just dancing and music.
"We want to create a space that will help the LGBTQ people feel that they have a safe place to go to, that they call home."