Words to live by, in every crevice of Vancouver.
Most nights, the Calabash Bistro on Carrall Street offers dining and music (bands or DJs) while patrons hit the dance floor until 12 a.m., when the party stops. "You got to go around and ask everyone to sit down," says Sam Willcocks, affable English bloke and Calabash co-owner. "It's crazy."
According to city hall, Calabash is a "Restaurant-Class 2," and by definition, must obey bylaw 4450, which prohibits "live entertainment" in restaurants "after midnight." Willcocks has launched a petition to amend 4450, but faces an uphill battle. Definitions die hard.
After decades of research and collection, in 1828, Noah Webster published the American Dictionary of the English Language and its 70,000 definitions. In 1857, work began on the Oxford English Dictionary, which was finally published in 1884. And at Vancouver city hall, since incorporation in 1886, bureaucrats and lawyers have drafted a multitude of definitions, which comprise the bureaucratic canon for city business. Bylaws, business licences, development permits and more.
For example. According to city hall's "Definitions" documents, "Hen means a domesticated female chicken that is at least four months old." Pertinent information for the chicken enthusiast, thanks to council's 2010 backyard chicken bylaw.
The city budget relies on property taxes. Ergo, residents require classification. "Family means_ one or more individuals all related to one another by blood, marriage, or adoption." (See The Brady Bunch, The Cosby Show, The Simpsons.) Or "a maximum of three unrelated individuals living together as a household." (See Three's Company, Three's a Crowd, Two and a Half Men.)
Some definitions use jumbled language and legalisms, seeking scofflaws of the worst kind. "Bingo Hall, which means the use of premises for the purpose of playing bingo_ but does not include bingo where the player is not playing the same game and responding to the same caller as and with other players in the hall or the use of player-oriented video lottery terminals or slot machines." Read that again. It still won't make sense.
Despite detailed definition, euphemism sometimes prevails to the benefit of business licensees. "Health Enhancement Centres" offer "therapeutic touch techniques." Of course, many also offer sex. The police know it. So does city hall.
Most legitimate massage businesses obtain "Beauty and Wellness" or "Fitness Centre" permits. But here's the rub. It costs $237 a year to renew a "Health Enhancement Centre" business licence compared to $9,694 for a "Body-rub Parlour, which means the use of premises for the practice of manipulating, touching or stimulating by any means of a person's body or part thereof." Subsequently, there are 84 "Health Enhancement Centres" in Vancouver and zero "Body-rub Parlours." Pimps know math.
Also on the underbelly, your local "Adult Retail Store, which means the use of premises to display or retail either or both of the following: (a) a sex object; (b) adult magazines." What's a "sex object?" No problem. But first, a viewer warning: the following definition contains graphic imagery and does not necessarily reflect the views and/or opinions of the Vancouver Courier.
A "sex object" is "(a) a replica of a penis, vagina, buttocks, anus, or female breast; (b) a device, machine or instrument intended for the stimulation primarily of the penis, the vagina or the anus by vibration or suction; (c) a pill, lotion or other medication intended to prolong or enhance the erection of the penis_ (d) a whip or implement intended for use in the enactment of human bondage or sadomasochistic activities when displayed in conjunction with or on the same premises as any of the objects referred to in clauses (a), (b) or (c) above."
To recap. In Vancouver, you may sell a fake penis with clause (b) and/or (c) but not (d) unless accompanied by all of the above. You may keep a hen over four months but don't play bingo by yourself. Fire that fourth roommate or you're no longer a family. And for heaven's sake, clear the dance floor at midnight unless you own a Health Enhancement Centre, where anything goes for $237 a year.