Homeless Cowboys still on the range

By Daniel Pagan

If Prince Harry returns to town, he’ll have to wait a little longer for his 25-cent draft. The City Planning Commission turned down the Cowboys bar’s re-opening bid, based on concerns that the large bar is inappropriate for a residential area.

The Cowboys bar is appealing the decision at the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board Thu., Feb. 28, after its bid to re-open at the corner of 5th Street and 4th Avenue S.W. was rejected.

Penny Lane Entertainment Group, the company that runs Cowboys as well as Ceilis and BustLoose.com, launched a campaign to counter the decision.

“After numerous e-mails, letters, phone calls, and blog messages of support, we wanted to offer another avenue for our supporters,” said Penny Lane Entertainment Group president Paul Vickers. “It is our way of supporting the citizens of Calgary who made Cowboys famous in the first place.”

Vickers explained Cowboys’ new location would be important for the vitality of downtown Calgary.

“The city study’s results stated that for a vibrant downtown, it requires mixed-use, which includes retail, residential, commercial, office towers, et cetera,” said Vickers.

Vickers explained the majority of businesses and residents offered their support for Cowboys, and efforts were made to assert residents’ concerns.

“We went to the residential buildings that said they had a problem, to hold meetings with them,” he said. “After we showed our proactive research we had conducted for them, they agreed with us and, in fact, asked how they could get a VIP card.”

Vickers pointed out the only letter of objection came from the Eau Claire Community Association, a group he doesn’t consider to be in the area.

Ward 7 Alderman and Planning Commission member Druh Farrell explained the decision was based on concerns about the close proximity of a large bar to the residential area and the Calgary Police Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design report.

“The report compared the call volumes at Cowboys’ original location, [9th Avenue and 5th Street S.W.] during the period prior to its closing, compared to the same amount of time after closure,” said Farrell. “That comparison showed that Cowboys generated significant calls to the Police, compared to zero calls after Cowboys’ closure.”

Farrell noted many residents were concerned about the potential impacts of a large bar such as Cowboys on their houses, with noise, criminal activity, and intoxication complaints.

“There were many letters from Eau Claire residents who were concerned that the problems they had experienced with Señor Frogs would be repeated with this much larger operation,” said Farrell.

Eau Claire Community Association member Cameron Gillies agreed with Farrell’s comparison.

“Druh is correct to use Señor Frogs as a precedent example of just how inappropriate a drinking-establishment use can be in a residential area,” said Gillies. “These kinds of uses cause grave damage to the residential experience at night, and contribute nothing to the community during the day when they are closed.”

Gillies pointed out the Eau Claire community was not against Cowboys and believed that Cowboys would contribute greatly to the vibrancy of Calgary, if properly located.

“We are adamant however, that with such a well-documented record of noise, intoxication, crime and policing problems, a drinking-establishment such as Cowboys would be detrimental to the quality of life of any residency it may be situated near,” said Gillies.

Gillies explained the community is optimistic that SDAB will uphold the Planning Commission’s decision.

“Otherwise, we would explore every available mechanism to keeping Cowboys away from our homes,” said Gillies.

Former Cowboys patron and third-year electrical engineering student Nicole Brown, echoed Gillies’ concerns about the potential location.

“Why ruin a perfectly pleasant riverside neighbourhood with a Back Alley-calibre nightclub?” she said.

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