A new code of conduct introduced Monday for bars along the Granville strip involves both year-long and lifetime bans for those involved in the violent behaviour that has plagued the area for years.
Bar Watch chair Curtis Robinson rolled out the parameters of the new code of conduct at the Republic Night Club, mere blocks away from where 23-year-old was murdered in January.
Fighting, verbal abuse, harassment, unwanted physical contact, drink tampering, theft or bringing concealed liquor into any of Bar Watch’s venues will result in a year-long ban. Those bringing weapons into venues will be barred for life.
“If you get charged for a violent offence on Granville Street or elsewhere in Vancouver, particularly the Granville strip and you’re found to be in possession of a knife or a weapon, you have forfeited your right to enter a Bar Watch bar, nightclub, pub or any venue under our umbrella for life,” Robinson said.
The code applies to both the interior and exterior of Bar Watch properties. If a patron leaves an establishment and starts a fight or engages in dangerous behaviour elsewhere on Granville, the same bans will apply. Robinson said his group will use court records to cross reference the identities and convictions in each case.
Thirty establishments fall under the Bar Watch code, predominantly along Granville Street, Gastown and Yaletown.
“The definition of stupid is not enough to apply to those individuals that decide to come downtown to Vancouver armed with a weapon or a knife or other items they feel they need to protect themselves. This is strictly not tolerable,” he said.
Outside of introducing the code of conduct, Robinson doubled down on other issues that could help mitigate violence and disorder on Granville: extended transit hours on weekends, allowing ride-sharing companies such as Lyft and Uber and increasing fighting fines to $1,000.
“I worked down here for years and it was nightmare at 3:30 in the morning trying to get people to move along,” he said.
Robinson also reiterated calls for security cameras, or CCTVs, to be installed along Granville. That move was rejected by council on May 2 based, in part, on a memo from deputy city manager Paul Mochrie. His recommendation to council was based on research questioning the effectiveness of cameras reducing violence and privacy concerns related to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
Nineteen late-night bars and nightclubs have security cameras as a condition of their business licence. Those cameras are focused on the property, not the public realm.
The estimated cost to install 25 cameras and two recorders along Granville from Drake to West Georgia streets is $398,475. Additional costs for administration, audits and data storage were mentioned in Mochrie’s memo, but no dollar figure was provided.
“Anybody who thinks that they have privacy is dreaming… there isn’t a place you can go in Vancouver, or for that matter anywhere, where CCTV is not there. I go to the gym and you’re on CCTV,” Robinson said.
Robinson was flanked by friends and family members of Thind, whose death remains unsolved. Thind’s sister, Jassicka Bhullar, made a tearful plea for council to reverse its course on installing CCTVs.
“The death of my brother has torn our family into shreds,” she said. “Yesterday was Mother’s Day and we couldn’t celebrate without my brother. I don’t know how we’re ever going to celebrate anything ever again with such a gaping hole in our family and in our hearts.”
Thind’s friends and coworkers applauded Monday’s announcement, but lamented the lack of taxi service and crowd control measures in the area specifically on weekends.
“It’s unexplainable what we’re going through right now and what we’re going to go through but let’s just focus on making everybody else safe,” Thind’s friend Manvir Dhudwal said.
VPD statistics show the Granville Street and Gastown entertainment districts saw 590 reported fights in 2017. VPD Staff Sgt. Damien said between 13 and 15 officers are assigned to the Granville strip on weekends during the summer. He told council earlier this month the number of bylaw tickets written for fighting on the Granville strip has jumped annually since 2014 — 15 at that point, compared to 87 last year.
— With files from Mike Howell