Mon, May 28, 1pm
In the midst of contention between Five Sixty managers and Hard party organizers over the policing of sexual activity in the May 20 event's play space, the liquor board says it received a complaint about the use of the word dungeon in promotions prior to the party.
Members of Vancouver Men in Leather, which co-produces the Hard party, say Five Sixty security guards were heavy-handed in the play area, shining flashlights in the eyes of men having sex and ordering them to stop. Five Sixty managers say they were only trying to adhere to liquor board regulations.
Five Sixty's executive director, Farhaan Ladhani, told Xtra he received a call from the BC Liquor Control and Licensing Branch about "some promotion and advertising that they had been concerned about" regarding the Hard party.
While he won't say who made the complaint, liquor inspector Rick Brydon confirms that he contacted Ladhani to find out about the dungeon.
Brydon, who says he has no idea "what a dungeon entails," says Ladhani told him it had already been dealt with.
"He said, 'Well, it's no longer there. We're not doing it anymore,'" Brydon says, adding that Ladhani didn't go into specifics.
"He mentioned something about possibly leaving themselves open for some sort of civil litigation, and he himself came to the decision. I still have no idea what the dungeon is, other than the complaint that came to us."
Brydon, who says he spoke to Ladhani approximately a couple of weeks before the Hard party, notes that his concerns ended when Ladhani addressed them immediately. "So there's not any reason for me to push that forward."
"I certainly didn't say, 'Don't you ever do this again,'" Brydon says.
Asked if there would be a problem if there were a dungeon, Brydon reiterates that he doesn't know what that is and "what behaviours there are" in such a space. But "I have seen theme nights in lots of different bars -- absolutely harmless," he says.
Friday, May 25
Organizers and attendees of a May 20 leather party are angry about the treatment they received from security guards at Five Sixty nightclub, saying it was heavy-handed and homophobic.
Bill Coleman, president of Vancouver Men in Leather (VML), which co-produces the Hard party, says the first signs of trouble arose 30 minutes into the event when a partygoer told him security guards were policing sexual activity in the designated dungeon play space.
Coleman says he initially observed one security guard approaching guys in a non-confrontational way, asking them to stop any sexual activity. Then another guard, who said he was in charge of security, shone a flashlight in people's faces and loudly warned them not to be sexual. The same guard also ordered men to stop playing near the urinals.
Coleman emailed Five Sixty's marketing director, Jonathon Gray, the next day.
In his May 24 reply, Gray says the party "went well," though the dungeon "unfortunately" had to be shut down because it was "getting a bit risky to continue the activities as per our licensing requirements."
Coleman wrote back and complained about the guards' behaviour, saying he had expected the event to be "the same as the other three Hard Parties" held at Five Sixty.
"There was a great deal of sex before at HARD parties, it was supported and perhaps even encouraged by management," Coleman tells Gray. "You should have known that it was advertised that there would be a play space (for guys to have sex). These advertisements were widely distributed."
"If you were not going to allow sex on site we should have been told that before any plans were made to hold our event at Five Sixty," Coleman continues. "By not doing so you have damaged your reputation and our reputation."
Five Sixty was only following liquor board guidelines, Gray says.
"Unfortunately, those are the rules set out by the Vancouver liquor board," he told Xtra May 24. "We're very supportive of the community as well as the VML, but there's specific lines we have to adhere to as a venue in Vancouver, so that's kind of where our stance was on that."
Asked what specific lines the liquor board asked Five Sixty to enforce, Gray says he isn't the one who corresponded with licensing officials.
Xtra's attempts to reach the BC Liquor Control and Licensing Branch were unsuccessful up to press time.
"We've never had a problem," says Priape manager Mark Janssen, who co-produces the Hard party with VML.
Janssen says he expected the same arrangements used in the last three Hard parties, including the play space, to apply on May 20.
"We received specific concerns raised by that," Gray says, without elaboration, when asked if the liquor board expressed any concern about the play space. "We have to kind of enforce that, and we were very transparent with Mark throughout the whole process."
Days before the May 20 party, Janssen says, he was told during a phone meeting with Gray and Five Sixty's executive director, Farhaan Ladhani, that police had been enquiring about the play space.
"I said, 'What are they enquiring about? This is the fourth party we're going to do,'" Janssen recalls.
Janssen wonders whether police suddenly enquired about the Hard party, or whether Five Sixty proactively called police with questions.
"When we were on the dancefloor, 30 minutes before the door opened for the event itself on Sunday, he [Ladhani] kind of indicated that he was being proactive and he called the police," Janssen alleges.
"I didn't question him on it; I just put that in my memory banks," Janssen says. "I just thought, The doors open in a few minutes; I don't have time to argue with him on that, but I just felt that very odd that he let that slip."
Ladhani told Xtra he didn't call the police but said Five Sixty had received a call from the BC Liquor Control and Licensing Branch about "some promotion and advertising that they had been concerned about" regarding the Hard party.
Ladhani said he would have to speak with his staff further about the concerns raised. "Unfortunately, I'm just learning about this from you right now," he told Xtra May 24.
Xtra tried unsuccessfully to reach Ladhani again before press time but received an email from Gray.
"We were disappointed to hear the concerns voiced by the Vancouver Men in Leather Association with respect to their Hard 4 event last week," the email states. "We have been working with the Hard 4 organizers for several weeks, and in that time, we made clear to all parties that it was the venue's responsibility to act in accordance with both the City of Vancouver and the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch requirements. We informed the Hard 4 organizers that complaints had been registered with the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch regarding promotions around the Hard 4 event and were assured at that time that all of those involved would be acting in accordance with City and LCLB regulations."
"The closing of the dungeon, in cooperation with the event organizers, was our requirement to act in accordance with the regulations that govern our operations," the email adds.
The VML board says it was assured there would be no problem as long as, like at previous parties, there was no alcohol in the play space.
"We failed at providing a sex-positive party. We would like to apologize again to those who felt ashamed, harassed, and embarassed by Five Sixty security guards," the VML board says in a public letter, adding that it won't hold any more events at Five Sixty.