By James Olson
VANCOUVER – When the Flamingo Hotel and Lounge was shut down in spring 2016, it was seen to be the end of a troubling era for one of Surrey’s most storied entertainment venues. The Byrd Exotic Show Lounge was particularly infamous in the Whalley community, as it had developed a reputation as a den of all manner of criminal activity. What the Penmar Community Arts Society and the Tien Sher Development Company saw in the property was an opportunity to turn the property around and cultivate an attractive arts and culture scene in the North Surrey area.
BeatRoute had the opportunity to speak with David Geertz, who, along with the help of Dione Costanzo and many others, has been able to completely transform the Flamingo property into a highly desirable entertainment venue in the Whalley neighborhood. Geertz and Penmar now run three venues: The Flamingo Lounge, The Byrd, and the Ocean Park Hall, along with a liquor store which allows for a structure in which bands can get paid, and paid well. Thanks to additional revenue streams for the site, including a liquor delivery service and a plan to utilize the on-site hotel for truckers, the organization’s overhead costs are covered, allowing Penmar to keep drink costs low and payouts for bands high.
“Going into our seventh or eighth show [since reopening], we’re seeing return regulars, and they don’t care [who is playing],” observes Geertz. “They like the room, they like the bands.”
The almost-immediate success that the Byrd has encountered is largely thanks to word of mouth.
“The biggest marketing is coming from the bands themselves and the engineers who are talking to everyone,” Geertz explains, mentioning that the Flamingo Lounge has already lined up a weekly jazz night and been booked for weddings and corporate events.
While the Flamingo property will eventually be redeveloped in eight to nine years’ time, Geertz and Penmar are devoted to reinvesting in the local arts community and turning the neighbourhood into Surrey’s cultural hub. The “dirty bird” has been cleaned up and has taken flight.
Check out theflamingo.ca for all venue and booking information.david geertz, dione costanzo, penmar community arts society, the byrd, the flamingo, the flamingo lounge, tien sher