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Passenger on 'massive party bus' in Vancouver speaks out after public backlash

"A lot of people are throwing me under the bus, no pun intended."
Photo: @patmcwill / Instagram

A Downtown Vancouver bar manager sparked outrage on social media after he tweeted that a massive party bus with over 20 people tried to enter his establishment Saturday night. 

And while the manager wrote that the group was "shocked and angry" when they were denied entry, one of the people who rode on the party bus says the group didn't try to go into the bar. In fact, he claims that they didn't even interact with bar staff. 

In a phone interview, Patrick McWilliams, 25, tells Vancouver Is Awesome that he and his friends decided to take a party bus to Downtown Vancouver Saturday night from Langley in order to save money - as well as have some fun. However, he says there were only 14 people on the bus, not over 20.

"If you take a cab from the Fraser Valley into Vancouver it costs like 250 bucks," he explains. "With a party bus you pay about $500 but split between 10 people or more that's a great deal. 

"Plus, it's more fun."

McWilliams says the group rented a party bus from Boss Limosine Service, a Surrey-based company. He is unable to say exactly how many people the vehicle could accommodate, but estimates that it was approximately the size of a TransLink HandyDART bus. He adds that he was with a "tight-knit friend group."

"The seating was all around the edge of the bus, but they didn't give us instructions about distancing once we were on the bus," notes McWilliams. "But no alcohol was allowed."

Once the group arrived in Granville Street's entertainment district, McWilliams says they decided to get off the bus. While that happened to be near the Belmont Hotel, he states that the group did not plan on going there. Instead, they planned to split into separate groups and go to different locations. 

"I went with five people to the Fountainhead Pub on Davie. Once we were in, we sat at two separate tables of three and I had a really nice conversation with the manager," explains McWilliams.

Scotty Larin, Bar Manager at the Fountainhead Pub, tells V.I.A. in a phone call that he doesn't specifically remember meeting McWilliams, but he does remember having a conversation with a nice young man about the rules concerning seating during the COVID-19 pandemic. That said, he says the group he recalls was a group of seven, which is why they had to be split into two tables and could not move between tables. 

"I meet so many people in a night that it's hard to remember all of the names," Larin notes. "But it could have been him."

And while McWilliams acknowledges that a girl from his group of friends may have asked to use the washroom at the Belmont's Living Room Bar, he says that the group did not try to enter the bar.

"People have a mentality that we are in Phase 1 - we aren't. We followed all the rules. If we weren't allowed to be in a party bus we wouldn't have been," notes McWilliams. "A lot of people are throwing me under the bus, no pun intended.

"I'm getting rude comments and DMs, and I feel like that Don guy [bar manager at the Living Room Bar] is using this to get business for his bar."

In a Tweet, Don Falconer, bar manager of the Living Room Bar, says 20 to 25 people climbed out of the vehicle in front of the bar. He quipped, "Take your rolling penthouse party somewhere else."

Falconer adds that the passengers were, "Shocked and angry," when staff denied them entry. 

Despite strict guidelines outlining the maximum allowable number of people in many stores, clubs, and restaurants, the rules are decidedly murky about how many people may occupy a vehicle

Some of the companies that V.I.A. reached out to said that they have 30 to 35 person party buses, but that they are reducing the number of passengers to ensure physical distancing. However, in some cases, as many as 25 people can still be on a bus. Further, many companies do not require passengers to wear masks.

V.I.A. reached out to Boss Limousine Service multiple times but they have not provided a comment.