Nova Scotia

North Preston law student says bar unfairly cancelled his party

Trevor Silver, a law student who hails from North Preston, suspects a bar's decision to cancel his party booking is a result of recent gun violence.

New owner of Halifax's Argyle Grill and Bar says it cut the party over safety concerns

Trevor Silver had 2,000 cards and flyers printed to promote his second annual party, which was cancelled by The Argyle this week. (Elizabeth Chiu)

Trevor Silver believes a decision by Argyle Grill and Bar to cancel his upcoming party is an after-effect of recent gun violence, which claimed the lives of four black men, including from a shooting death in his home community.

Silver, who grew up in North Preston, just finished his first year at Dalhousie's Schulich School of Law, and he's turning 26.

But on Tuesday he was told that the party he's been planning since March was cancelled.

"With all the violence and stuff in the news, people getting shot and stabbed that they don't want that crowd at their venue," Silver told CBC News of his conversation with bar management.

"So I said, 'It's basically because I'm black. You don't want the blacks'."

Company denies allegations

The company flatly denies the allegation. Urbansparq Hospitality, an Edmonton-based business, took over operations on Monday. 

"It's absolutely 100 per cent not discrimination," said Dan Crerar, urbansparq's assistant operations manager, who is new to Halifax.

The decision to cancel the booking stems from a party Silver threw one year ago at The Argyle, he said.

Assistant operations manager Dan Crerar said the booking was cancelled due to safety concerns. (CBC)

'All about safety'

Crerar alleges about four or five staff who worked that night are afraid of working at another party hosted by Silver.

"I heard there was a bunch of fights and unruly behaviour," Crerar said of last year's event.

"When they come to me and I can actually see some fear in their eyes.… They were like, 'We don't want to work this party because you can sense the scariness in them'."

"It's all about safety — and that's the reason we cancelled the party."

No trouble, police calls

Silver disputes that. He said his party had "no trouble at all, no fights," and was attended by 175 people who were mostly African Nova Scotians, many from North Preston.

Silver said both of his parents attended the party and also told him there were no scuffles.

Police tell CBC there were no calls to them about fights or disturbances at The Argyle that night. 

The Argyle Grill and Bar has been a fixture for 23 years. On Monday, a new company took over operations. (CBC)

Metal detector request set off 'alarm bells'

Crerar said the decision to revoke the booking was reinforced because of Silver's request that bar security staff use metal detector wands.

"If anyone ever requests a metal detector, it sets off alarm bells as far as an unsafe crowd," Crerar said.

Waving wands over club patrons is a practice in other cities, but uncommon in Halifax.

Request 'a precaution'

Silver said he asked for wands because he felt the security staffing level at last year's party was inadequate. He said his intention to beef up security was sensible.

"I want my people to be safe, so what's the matter with that? And that [request in March] was way before all the crime happened," Silver said.

"I just did it for a precaution, and didn't even think anything was going to happen. I just put it there, just extra security."

Lost up to $2K

With the booking cancelled only 11 days before the party, Silver is scrambling. He said he's spent up to $2,000 advertising the Living that Saturday Life party at The Argyle.

He's distributed stacks of cards and flyers promoting the event and paid for T-shirts and bracelets, among costs.

He said his finances, reputation and name are on the line.

'Associating me with the crime'

And he said pulling the party has been hurtful.

"I even said to [the bar manager], I feel like I'm back in the slavery days," he said. "The real reason is because I'm black and they're associating me with the crime that's in the city."

Crerar said he's willing to refund Silver's $500 deposit, and discuss costs he's incurred.

'It came down to safety'

Crerar pointed out he's rejected plenty of bookings in the past due to concerns over violence, and this latest decision has had nothing to do with skin colour.

"Sure, it might have that appearance, but again it came down to safety, it came down to past events, it came down to our staff coming to us concerned for their safety and the safety of others," Crerar said.

Trevor Silver hired a professional photographer for his party last year. (Swoop Entertainment)

Silver said he plans to ask for advice from his professors about whether he has grounds for a human rights complaint.

"We're only two per cent of the population, so they just chuck us in a bucket together and we're all the same," he said.

He says he faces racist attitudes in society.

"There's [also] white people killing white people," said Silver, whose mother is Caucasian.

Making a difference

When the recent shooting spree was happening, Silver was writing exams — and grieving because he knew all four victims. 

"I just feel like helpless with that situation. The only way is to show a different way is to go a different way," Silver said.

"That's what I'm trying to do at law school and everything, so we'll see if we can make a difference."

About the Author

Elizabeth Chiu is a reporter in Nova Scotia and hosts Atlantic Tonight on Saturdays at 7 p.m., 7:30 p.m. in Newfoundland. If you have a story idea for her, contact her at elizabeth.chiu@cbc.ca.