Our city is losing culture, but where does the blame lie?
Jayde Atchison // Staff Writer
Jonathan Pachkowsky // Illustrator
Friday night rolls around and you and your friends are trying to find the best place to let loose and forget about the struggles of being a student for an evening. Whether it’s discovering the perfect cocktail, discussing art over espresso or listening to a local band perform live, we all have a favourite social escapism.
Sadly, our favourite places seem to be disappearing faster than our will to study. Walking down Denman Street in 2016 offered an entirely different array of bars, restaurants and coffee shops than 2020. Increasingly, shiny storefront windows are replaced with the brown paper of mourning. Daily Hive articles warn us of yet another closure creeping up, like the Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret, and it is frustrating not being able to have a say.
Establishments close down because they have a lack of patrons due to the infamous BC Bail, skyrocketing rent prices and an increased cost of living. Gentrification plays an overwhelming part in the loss of homes and shops, through character buildings being torn down for unreasonably priced high rises. Personally, I seldom go to movie theatres, live shows, bars or restaurants because it often comes down to: do I buy groceries this week or do I go to one dinner on Main Street? I am guilty of cancelling plans and perfecting my homebody attire on a semi-regular basis. Leaving the 20-block radius around my house is dependent on special occasions (read: birthdays, going-away gatherings and cat cafes).
Does this mean I want to see beloved establishments close down? Absolutely not. I know that for some, leaving home and saying yes to social outings is a crucial part of their lives. Local businesses deserve more engagement than the bigger companies, for social and economic reasons. Local establishments typically invest in local resources which leads to a smaller and more sustainable carbon footprint. Attending live shows at small venues allows local performers to gain momentum and support.
When venues keep shutting down it feels like the city is losing its culture. A vibrant art scene can be a deciding factor in attracting newcomers or retaining residents, and vice versa. When I think of my neighbourhood, I do not think of the cute niche places I used to frequent—instead I think of the countless FOR LEASE signs where the only lasting places are Tim Hortons, Starbucks and the Donnelly Group bar (which is also under threat of closure). We can protest and sign petitions until our hands go numb, but it usually doesn’t help. We saw the resurrection of The Rio and The Cambie, but sadly not all small businesses have the rallying support of their community behind them.
We live in a city where people get away with renting out solariums for nearly $1000/month and we have to say thank you because at least we have a roof over our heads. Those who are brave enough relocate outside the lower mainland, but the further we move out, the harder it is to get ourselves out the door—especially when we have to travel up to an hour on public transit. For a lot of us, we are not showing up to events because our living situations don’t allow for that luxury.
As the once unique and underground socializing scene of Vancouver is replaced with fear of reno-viction and getting underpaid in our field of choice, we lose an integral part of what makes a city livable. If your idea of culture is snowboarding and hitting the beach in one day, then Vancouver is probably the spot for you. If your thing is wandering into small businesses and finding the best place for gritty, underground performances—Vancouver is on its last leg of cultural worth.