June 18, 2021

City’s Penthouse banks on pent-up demand

Landmark strip club preps for reopening after sitting shuttered for more than a year

Penthouse Nightclub owner Danny Filippone: “I have a funny feeling that we won’t be opening probably until the first week in September unless I see a fantastic response between July and August” | Chung Chow

“LONGEST 2 WEEKS EVER,” read the marquee outside Vancouver’s storied Penthouse Nightclub in March 2020.

The province had just gone into lockdown mode amid intensifying health concerns over COVID-19. Tension, stress and uncertainty over the pandemic were all palpable.

Danny Filippone – proprietor of the 74-year-old Seymour Street family-owned strip club – figured the message might offer levity to the ghost-town-like downtown core.

But the pandemic quickly surpassed two weeks – and the Penthouse hasn’t opened its doors to any business since the month the marquee went up.

And even as B.C. approaches the potential transition to Step 3 of its reopening plan as early as July 1, Filippone is skeptical the infamous strip club will be operating by then.

“I can’t go ahead and hire a full staff right now,” he said, describing the current situation as a “guessing game.”

Restaurants and pubs have been able to extend liquor service from 10 p.m. to midnight as part of the transition into Step 2 of the reopening plan. But it’s unclear whether transitioning to Step 3 would allow the Penthouse to serve liquor until 2 a.m., as its current licence allows.

“There was a time when we could have opened with limited capacity, and it just didn’t work,” Filippone said.

The club didn’t open until 9 p.m. prior to the pandemic and closing by 10 p.m. just didn’t make sense.

And for weeks there was confusion about how an establishment such as the Penthouse would even be classified under provincial orders: Was it a bar? A nightclub? With disrobing dancers on stage the primary draw, the strip club was eventually determined to fall within the events category, like indoor concerts.

Filippone said he believes the Penthouse is the only Vancouver strip club to have stayed closed throughout the pandemic. For now, he’s preparing for an August 1 return.

“But really, I’ve told my staff … I have a funny feeling that we won’t be opening probably until the first week in September unless I see a fantastic response between July and August,” Filippone said.

It’s unlikely regulars at the strip club want to see dancers in masks while patrons and workers alike try to navigate through Plexiglas shields – an experience Filippone compared to a visit to a hockey rink.

And opening up at the height of summer also means the Penthouse will be competing with patios, whose numbers have surged across Vancouver during the pandemic.

“The patio sort of saved everyone [in the restaurant industry], but when you’re in the nightclub industry like we are, we don’t have a patio – there’s no window,” Filippone said. “It just didn’t make logical sense to be one of the first to open in July for all those reasons.”

Over the past 16 months, the club’s bartenders and servers have picked up other work in construction or delivery if they haven’t been able to find gigs at restaurants.

The dancers and DJs are contractors, and Filippone is confident most workers will return.

“The bar is family-based and family-run, and our average employee stays for seven to 10 years,” he said. “We have a hard time getting rid of employees versus finding employees.”

While other establishments have cut deals with landlords and tapped support from government to avoid going under during the pandemic, the Penthouse property has remained family-owned since the 1940s.

“That’s basically what saved us,” Filippone said, adding property taxes and insurance costs have been the biggest ongoing expenses during the pandemic.

But with the lights out for more than a year, Penthouse regulars will notice big changes upon their return.

The seating will be more segregated, VIP-style, and the washrooms, stage, carpet and sound system have also been overhauled.

“Not opening, I think it’s going to play in our favour because a lot of the people who follow nightclubs and our types of business knew that we were one of the bars that didn’t open,” Filippone said. “I know a lot of people respected that. And I hope that we get that sort of ‘thank you’ back when we finally do open.” •




Welcome to the City of Vancouver: B.C.’s taxpayer shakedown capital

The City of Vancouver is not wrong. It is indeed in a climate emergency.

The emergency is the climate of ceaseless shakedown of our personal finances.

In recent weeks it has become clear that the city’s exercise to build “a cleaner, healthier city” is in fact dirty and sick.

The latest ludicrousness comes in the form of an annual pollution charge on gas-engine vehicles. Up to $1,000 annually – yes, annually, you read that right – will be assessed on new vehicles in 2023 and beyond that are owned by Vancouverites.

Just as ICBC giveth, the city taketh away.

The city is arguing that this tariff would encourage people to choose a different vehicle when they next buy “without impacting affordability for people who have older vehicles.” The city is hypothesizing – because that’s all anything like this unparalleled scheme could hope to – that the measure to force people into more environmentally friendly vehicles will reduce emissions by 7% to 14%. This is a grand up-front conceit, utterly unproveable as a causal effect ever, but the gang at Cambie and 12th has decided the numbers are sufficiently impressive to win some dupes over.

This measure is presumably to shield lower-income Vancouverites driving gas guzzlers (or what we call on the coast their “beaters”) from experiencing further expense in one of the world’s most costly cities. But by 2025 or 2026, a lot of those pre-2023 vehicles will be off the roads, so the exemption is only temporary – and a problem to solve for the next city council, not this one.

But of course, the fee reveals a flaw. If we’re serious about tackling climate change but don’t tax older, less efficient vehicles, what we’re really doing is simply taxing wealth and not pollution.

Why the pretense? Why not just admit it? Why not be honest that city finances are bloated and still insufficient to the pet project taskmasters, that the mayor and the majority of council have no interest in reducing expenses, and that the juiciest place to look is at those who haven’t yet collapsed under the weight of imposed costs? Who do you think you’re fooling?

An additional overnight parking fee is proposed, too, and here is where even more suspicion would be well placed. The city is going to assess an annual parking fee, likely starting at $45 but surely a floor and not a ceiling in years ahead, for the privilege of pulling up anywhere there is not an existing permit system for residents of a block (there is metered parking, too, and that won’t disappear). Pretty soon it will be compared to less than the cost of a cup of coffee a day; that’s how tax compliance is achieved.

For visitors and Vancouverites alike who don’t have a permit (like those who have underground parking garages), they’ll face an overnight charge of $3 to park after 10 p.m. and before 7 a.m.

It does not take a Nobel economics laureate to recognize the inherent inefficiency of this exercise. To pay for the staff time and the technical infrastructure of issuing tickets, if a $3 defiant isn’t found about every minute, the scheme is a money-loser. Good luck on that.

My guess: the fee will rise and fast or the idea will sink and fast.

The proposals have been likened to using taxpayers as an ATM, but this is untrue. An ATM has a seemingly endless supply of funds but a limit on what you can withdraw. The taxpayer has a finite supply of what the city increasingly treats as a bottomless reservoir. I can’t wait to see the next property tax proposal.

It is true that the needs of the disadvantaged and unprivileged have been insufficiently addressed. It is also true that our climate change challenges are upon us and significant. Who can’t possibly worry about where this all leads? The questions for the city are what are its firm roles in addressing these large fields and how it stays in its lane. The city needs to do more to search for these answers than to slap sloppy taxes so ill-conceived and haphazard.

We have had too many aspirational, extraterritorial notions about what the city is equipped to perform. Nothing Vancouver does can make much of a dent in the world’s carbon emissions, but it can fix and prepare its infrastructure to deal with the consequences. It can’t solve homelessness or deliver equity, but it can work with larger governments to diminish the problems. Still, it continues to make the oversized claims, in part, to make some of us feel better about ourselves – and, of course, better about those who govern us – all the while failing to concoct ideas to generate prosperity.

The vehicular proposals are only the latest edition. As is clear, the next wave will be tariffs on where and how often you drive. If the busy minds at city hall believe these will compel us to get out of our cars, they need to know it will be in infuriation.

The navigation of this terrain so as not to kill the few remaining geese laying the golden eggs requires ultra-delicate conduct, which this is not. It requires some self-examination of spending to ensure waste is mitigated, which this does not. And it requires some direct levelling with taxpayers when neither seem preferable to the powers that be, which this has not.

I took the city’s online survey on the proposal. Like others, I tried to be polite, even though I have been insulted. •

Kirk LaPointe is publisher and editor-in-chief of BIV and vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.



Vancouver’s Car Free Day is turning into Car Free Month

The organization will host a series of smaller events from August 29 to September 25

Rather than blocking off Main Street for a single day this summer, Car Free Vancouver recently announced its return in 2021 as a month-long festival comprised of several smaller events | Facebook photo courtesy of Car Free Vancouver

A local initiative is encouraging Vancouverites to ditch their vehicles this September. 

After more than a decade of hosting “Car Free Days” along Commercial Drive, Main Street, and in the West End, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Car Free Vancouver Society to move their events online in 2020. Rather than blocked-off roads and reclaimed public space, last year’s Car Free Days were composed of virtual events like concerts, scavenger hunts, and audio tours.

For its return in 2021, Car Free Vancouver is once again rolling out a re-imagined, revamped format. 

Instead of Car Free Day, Vancouverites will this year be able to celebrate Car Free Month from Sunday, August 29 to Saturday, September 25, the society announced this week. 

The decision to extend the initiative into a month-long festival comprised of several smaller events is intended to foster community spirit while adhering to public health guidelines. Over the four weeks, Car Free Vancouver will host a series of smaller-scale events like markets, performances, parklets, bike rides, audio tours and more, all intended to offer a peek at what Vancouver could look like with more space for pedestrians and less for cars. 

“We feel that this aligns with what our supporters are looking for in our events, and that’s a sense of community,” the society explained in a release.  

“By hosting a series of smaller events, we believe that the ‘car free’ vision can be experienced in neighbourhoods we have not reached before and provide more accessibility options, while also continuing to work with the partners that have supported us in previous years.” 

Stay tuned to Car Free Vancouver’s website for more information as the festival approaches. 



This Chief Dan George exhibit in North Vancouver inspires a path forward for reconciliation

'We are all eager for direction on movements for justice and reconciliation, and Chief Dan George provided decades of inspiration, hard truths and guidance to all of us.'

The Chief Dan George: Actor and Activist Exhibit is open at Maplewood Flats Thursday through Sunday to August 29, 2021 | Wild Bird Trust of B.C.

When the late Tsleil-Waututh Nation Chief Dan George, Tśētsawanexw and Stalaston, spoke of reconciliation, he would say, “The only thing that can truly help us is genuine love.”

These are words George wrote almost five decades ago in a column that appeared in the North Shore Free Press – an early iteration of the North Shore News – on March 1, 1972.

They are words that still ring true to this day. 

As well as a respected leader, George, who was born in North Vancouver on July 24, 1899, and died on Sept. 23, 1981, at age 82, was a beloved actor, musician, poet, author, and strong advocate for Indigenous rights. 

In the wake of discussions of genocide of First Nations peoples and the process of reconciliation this month, a new exhibition based on George’s life and legacy offers a source of knowledge, guidance, and inspiration for the path forward.

The Chief Dan George Exhibit: Actor and Activist, originally developed by MONOVA: Museum of North Vancouver, is currently being exhibited by The Wild Bird Trust of British Columbia and is on show at the Maplewood Flats Conservation Area in North Vancouver. It focuses on George’s influence as an advocate for the rights of First Nations Peoples in Canada and beyond as well as his career as a television and film actor. 

George began his acting career in 1960 with a role in the CBC-TV series Cariboo Country and would later become well known for his role in the 1970 Hollywood movie Little Big Man, starring Dustin Hoffman. 

But, he was much more than a film star, he was a voice for his people and while the sun has set on his time on Earth, there's still much we can learn from him says Irwin Oostindie, president of The Wild Bird Trust of B.C., which manages the conservation area. 

“Canadians are again being confronted with Canada’s genocidal actions against Indigenous peoples,” he said. 

“We are all eager for direction on movements for justice and reconciliation, and Chief Dan George provided decades of inspiration, hard truths and guidance to all of us."

Oostindie said the exhibit on George features stories and artifacts, including paintings, photographs and memorabilia, and was developed by MONOVA in close collaboration with the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and the George family. 

While the words George wrote in his column back in the early '70s are nearly 50 years old, they still resonate today as Canada ventures into a new age of truth and reconciliation while also grappling with a global climate emergency.

He talks of respecting Mother Nature, sharing how as a child he grew up in a communal 80-foot-long smoke-house and learned from his father to live off the land, fishing and hunting and taking only what was needed. He writes that he finds it hard to "understand how men not only hate and fight their brothers, but even attack nature and abuse her."

"I know that my white brother does many things well, but I wonder if he has ever really learned how to love," he wrote. "Perhaps he loves the things that are his own but has never learned to love the things outside and beyond him. This is not love at all! For man must love all creation or he will love none of it."

A residential school survivor, he also shared some of his thoughts on reconciliation. 

“My culture is like a wounded stag that has crawled away into the forest to bleed and die alone,” George wrote.

“The only thing that can truly help us is genuine love. You must truly love us, be patient with us and share with us. And we must love you with a genuine love that forgives and forgets ... a love that forgives the terrible sufferings your culture brought ours when it swept over us like a wave crashing along a beach … with a love that forgets and lifts up its head and sees in your eyes an answering look of trust and understanding.”

As well as an in-depth look at George’s life, the exhibit also considers other significant figures, events and milestones in the First Nations rights movement in B.C. and Canada and touches on the wider history and portrayal of Indigenous people in film and television.

While the exhibit opened on May 22, the WBT is inviting the public to a welcome reception on Saturday, June 12 from noon to 1:30pm.

The virtual event features a performance by drummers Nicholas George and Rob George to open the ceremony, which will be followed by words from Tsleil-Waututh leaders and local dignitaries. Oostindie will MC the event and speakers will address the historical and present day resonance of George. Curators from Tsleil-Waututh, the George family and the Museum of North Vancouver will be there to discuss the significance of the exhibition.

Since 2016, the Conservation Area at Maplewood Flats, situated within the traditional and unceded territory of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, has functioned as a platform for reconciliation and conservation, and practices redress to the Nation.

The exhibit is open Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. by COVID-bubble appointments, and Saturday and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., first come, first served.

The public can RSVP for the virtual welcome reception at Chief Dan George Reception.

The exhibit will be on show until Aug. 29 at Maplewood Flats, at 2649 Dollarton Hwy., North Vancouver.

For more details or to book an appointment, visit Wild Bird Trust of B.C.

Elisia Seeber is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.


Science World launches fundraising campaign after $13M loss due to COVID-19

The fundraising campaign is being launched in an effort to expand science, technology, engineering, arts and design and math learning across the province

Science World announced the campaign in an effort to further expand science, technology, engineering, arts & design and math learning across the province | Science World

Science World has launched a $10 million fundraiser to renew exhibits and create new virtual content to be shared with students and teachers far outside the downtown dome.

The campaign was launched this week in an effort to further expand STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and design and math) learning across the province and into barriered communities. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has accelerated the need for the non-profit organization to deliver educational content in a digital capacity Science World wrote in a statement regarding the fundraiser.

“It’s up to all of us to ensure that B.C., and Canada, are able to compete on a global scale in the quest for talent,” said Tracy Redies, President and CEO of Science World. “Currently, we are facing skills shortages in essential fields so we need to equip our youth with the right tools to succeed in the future.”

Redies went on to say it is estimated that two-thirds of students entering elementary school today will be employed in jobs that do not currently exist. Of those new jobs, about 80 per cent will require STEAM literacy. 

“Science World is uniquely positioned to support the learners of today so they’re ready for the challenges of tomorrow. This important fundraising campaign will help us succeed in doing just this,” Redies said.

Science World has seen a drop in revenue of approximately $13 million as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic since 80 per cent of its revenue from ticket sales and events. Less than 2 per cent of Science World’s funding comes from the government. 

Manny Padda, Chair of the Fundraising Committee and Science World Board Member says funds raised will scale Science World’s programming to reach over three million learners in 2021.

“The new and expanded digital outreach is available to people at every income level and will provide essential STEAM educat

Science World has outlined how it plans to use the fundraiser’s target goal of $10 million.

•$5 million on immersive experiences, exhibit renewal and vital capital projects. 

•$3.5 million of which will include new technology and content.

 •The remaining $1.5 million will help create a new digital studio and platform, upgrades to current galleries, a new greenhouse and maintenance. 

•$5 million to accelerate the digitization of programs, exhibits and new STEAM content. 

In an effort to target the greater business community, Science World is expanding its ”The World Needs More Nerds” campaign with a follow-up campaign “The Future Needs More Nerds.” 

Over the past year, “The World Needs More Nerds” sparked global attention with superstar nerds like Dr. Bonnie Henry, Dr. Jane Goodall, Chris Hadfield, and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif coming on board to support the cause. 

ion to those in rural, remote and Indigenous communities, as well as women and girls,” Padda said.


What are we reading? June 17, 2021

Getty Images

Each week, BIV staff will share with you some of the interesting stories we have found from around the web.


Mark Falkenberg, deputy managing editor:

For many years, Big Tobacco waged a lavishly funded PR campaign that pushed back against a tide of medical evidence that smoking causes cancer and other diseases. This excerpt from Cigarette Nation: Business, Health, and Canadian Smokers, 1930–1975 by Daniel J. Robinson observes how decades of corporate denial and gaslighting helped build a template for modern disinformation campaigns. – The Walrus


U.S. President Joe Biden has moved to stop fighting on one front of a Trump-era trade war, agreeing to end a tariff squabble over alleged unfair subsidies to aircraft makers Boeing and Airbus. – Reuters


Timothy Renshaw, managing editor:

Believe it or not, some other beings now populating planet Earth would miss humans if we all went extinct, which, if you drink daily at the fountain of social media, appears to be increasingly likely. – Grunge


Interesting insights into the mental costs of being employed in jobs with no social value or other purpose. Better known in scientific circles as  the "bullshit jobs theory."  – University of Cambridge


Breaking up is hard to do and other space debris complications courtesy of the European Space Agency


Welcome to Canada: home to the world's oldest water. – Science Alert


Nelson Bennett, reporter: 

China is playing a dangerous game of chicken near Taiwan. China has for some time now been testing and straining Taiwan’s air defences by flying sorties near Taiwan’s air space, forcing Taiwan to continually scramble fighter jets in response. On Tuesday, it dramatically upped the ante, with a sortie of 28 warplanes just outside Taiwan’s air defence identification zone. As Forbes points out, this is part of China’s strategy to test and strain the air and naval strengths of Taiwan, Japan and the U.S. This is a game chicken that could turn out very badly for all sides. – Forbes


At the risk of being disowned by my son, who is a golf addict, here is a story that asks the question: Should golf exist? – Refinery 29