Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lick Club

Lotus Hotel
Lick Club

Location: 455 Abbot Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Opened: June 2003

Closed: March 26, 2011

When Lick Club closed, she was was widely mourned as Vancouver's "lone lesbian bar." But in her facebook page, she preferred to downplay her female identity and identify herself as an "all inclusive queer night club/lounge."

An all inclusive queer night club/lounge located at 455 Abbott Street (at Pender) in downtown Vancouver. Since its opening over pride in 2003, Lick has provided the community with space, staff, suds, songs and smiles for fundraisers and awareness programs benefiting organizations such as Youth Co. AIDS Society, The Vancouver Dyke March, Vancouver Independent Writers Festival, Vancouver SPCA, Friends For Life Society, The Queer Film Festival, Hummingbird Kids Society, as well as many top surgery fundraisers and other community needs benefits. We are proud to have showcased some of Vancouver's finest talent in including DJs De Lux, Betti Forde, Revoked & T and entertainers DAXX, Buttah, Rayne & Woody...to name but a few. Lick is housed in the historic, turn-of-the century Lotus Hotel, where you'll also find Vancouver's favorite underground house club downstairs in the Lotus, and the vintage, luxe charm of Honey Lounge.

Though the Lick's management may have preferred the more politically trendy--if awkward--moniker of "all inclusive queer night club/lounge," you seldom saw the standard night life Internet sites referring to Lick's in that terminology. Here's how about.com described her:

Lick Nightclub is a hot venue for lesbians. They have guest DJ's, great tunes, cheap drinks and a great staff of friendly people. This is the hottest ladies night around! Vancouver has a thriving gay and lesbian community and this is the place to be if you want to hang out with your gal pals.

About.com also described her this way:

It's in a somewhat down-at-the-heels location on the edge of both Chinatown and Gastown, just a few blocks northeast of downtown, but the Lotus Hotel (455 Abbott St., 604-685-7777) is worth checking out for some of the best dancing in the city as well as Vancouver's only true lesbian bar, Lick (open Thursdays through Sundays). Lick is one of three venues here, including the street-level Honey Lounge (with live music some nights) and basement-level Lotus Sounds Lounge. The variety of venues makes this very fun, whatever your taste. Although Lick draws a predominantly lesbian crowd, it's very welcoming toward all, and in the other venues you'll always discern a something of a queer vibe, both male and female - the whole place is much more about dancing and listening to great music (from rock to soul to electronic) than attitude, cruising, or carousing.

And then there's this review from blackbook:

Run by women for women, Lick (also known as The Mix) tastes spicy and sweet, like a queer-friendly, safe space should. Underground sounds from uberhip DJs keep the sweat dripping down whirling dyke dervishes on the dance floor, and cheapie drinks mean nights here are prime pick-up ground for a scene that embraces all things butch and femme. Add a few bi-curious coeds and pink power activists, and it's no surprise "The L Word" is a Vancouver creation.

So it appears that others did not shy away from identifying Lick as a lesbian place, even if the management was squeamish about it.

But then in March 2006, the owners of the Lotus Hotel sold the building, and the Lick Club--in addition to the other clubs housed at that location--was forced to close its doors.

Interestingly enough, an angry patron of the Lick Club organized a protest party for the night before the scheduled closing (March 25). And the protest wasn't over the loss of an "all inclusive queer night club/lounge." No indeed, there were plenty of "queer spaces" in Vancouver. What had ceased to exist--and what incited the most passion--was the loss of a specifically LESBIAN space:

Facebookers have been registering their shock and disappointment at Lick's impending closure, and the news has prompted UBC student Emily Plommer to organize "a Party of Protest" at Lick tonight (March 25).

"Lick is closing FOREVER this Saturday the 26th and that's NOT ok!" Plommer writes.

"There will be NO more lesbian bars in Vancouver and only having ONE lesbian bar in Vancouver was enough to get a lot of us ranting. But this deal's done and we've got to move on. We've got to create our own... space if our spaces are going to be taken away from us!

"Regardless, we ALL have a place, a memory, a story from Lick, whether it's sexy, funny or just plain ridiculous," her post reads in part.

Plommer says she heard about Lick's fate on March 24 through a Facebook message from the club and was surprised at how its closure was communicated.

"I just felt it wasn't what Lick-goers or past Lick-goers needed to remember their experiences at Lick," she says.

"I talked to a few friends about it - kind of ranted - and we all decided that a lot of our frustration came out of the fact that it's a really symbolic representation that is closing," Plommer elaborates.

"A lot of us had been discussing at various times how it's really frustrating that this is the only lesbian bar, but we recognize that for some people the space is really important, and it's also iconically important," Plommer adds.

There are plenty of gay clubs in Vancouver that cater mostly to gay male clients, she adds, and while they're "not exclusionary towards women, women need their own space," Plommer asserts.

She says the party of protest is an attempt to get people together and "see how many other people this matters to."

It's hard to find where the lesbian community is if it's not at the Dyke March day, Plommer continues.

So far, 66 people and counting have indicated they'll be attending the March 25 party of protest.

It was a fine gesture, this "symbolic and metaphorical" protest devoted to "DRINKING, DANCING, MOBILIZING, and having a BLAST." But ultimately, the Lick Club closed the very next night, right on schedule.

Photo: Lotus Hotel, by Andrew Collins

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