The mass shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub in the early hours of Sunday (June 12) that left 49 people dead and 53 injured has venue and nightclub owners reviewing security measures at events and parties moving forward. It’s also having an immediate effect on the LGBT nightclub and party scene in New York City as the community gears up for its annual Pride week, which starts June 19 and culminates in the long-running Pride Parade and the 30th annual Dance on the Pier party on June 26.
Historically, gay clubs and parties have served as safe havens for a community that has endured more than its share of hate over the years. But in the immediate aftermath of the shooting at Pulse, several promoters and nightclub owners are turning to increased security measures to reassure attendees and attempt to ensure the safety of their guests.
“We do take the incident in Orlando very seriously,” says Jason Kaciupski, events manager at Addison Group NYC, owner of high-end clubs such as the Monarch atop the Marriott Courtyard in Manhattan’s Herald Square, which hosts an LGBT-friendly day party called Fly Sundays throughout the summer. “We will be adding additional security check points for our guest’s safety.” Others such as Brandon Voss — longtime promoter and owner of Voss Events and Productions which produces several weekly events in Manhattan, Miami, Las Vegas and Fire Island and is putting together three events at Pride this year — tell Billboard there are plans to increase security, without getting into specifics.
“We work closely with the NYPD,” says Tom Johnson, owner and manager of popular nightclub Therapy in Manhattan, in an email. “I am confident and have been assured by members of the force that they will be providing the city with stepped up patrols at LGBTQ gathering places.” The NYPD, which said in a statement they “are closely monitoring developments in the investigation” of the shooting in Orlando, was “out in full force” at the vigil for victims of the attack at the iconic gay bar Stonewall Inn last night (June 13), in addition to showing a strong presence at Manhattan’s LGBT Center and the block outside Therapy, Johnson added.
Accordingly, the co-chairs of NYC Pride released a statement this week saying that all events associated with the festival would go on as scheduled, and that organizers were working with both the NYPD and their private security team to “adjust our existing security protocols,” with more information to be released in the coming days. “For decades, we have worked closely with the NYPD and a number of other city agencies to ensure the safety of every guest,” co-chairs Maryanne Roberto Fine and David Studinski wrote. “We also deploy a team of hundreds of professional security guards throughout our events, in addition to security measures that most guests never see.”
However, several venue owners and promoters contacted by Billboard are adamant that the spirit of their events remain intact, and that while additional security may be required, it should not distract from the messages of freedom, positivity and love that have become a rallying cry for the LGBT community. “We hope for a strong Pride turnout, where we can live out our LGBTQ lives without hate, fear and persecution propagated by our domestic politicians and religious leaders,” Johnson wrote to Billboard. “Blocking our establishment’s access with additional layers of armed security is not the answer, love is.”
“I’m a firm believer that when something happens, even something as horrible as this, it’s not a sign that it’s going to happen all the time, or even again in my lifetime,” says Daniel Nardicio, a longtime gay party promoter, producer and leader in the scene for over a decade, noting that he has received emails from other venues and promoters assuring customers that they are reviewing security guidelines. “I don’t think because of a one-time thing that we should change the way we’ve been doing things successfully for a long time; that’s reactive. I think clubs will pretend to do it, but they’re not going to keep up that expense forever.”
Pride is particularly under the microscope, not just for its importance within the community but also because its events — like Dance on the Pier, which will be headlined by Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas, Teaze, and DJ’d by Samantha Ronson — are large-scale, public gatherings that attract thousands. James Fallorino, media director for NYC Pride, says that metal detectors, security checkpoints and other measures are all being considered, but that organizers are still finalizing details. “The most important message for us to get out right now is that all the events are taking place, nothing is canceled,” he says.
Unfortunately, however, increased security has become “the new reality,” music industry attorney Ed McPherson told Billboard earlier this week, particularly after shootings at the Bataclan in Paris, Irving Plaza in New York and the murder of Christina Grimmie after a performance at a separate Orlando venue the night before the massacre at Pulse, all coming within the past seven months. But despite heightened anxiety in the LGBT community in the hours following the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, Fallorino says the tone has “definitely changed.”
“People understand that this may be one of the most important Prides that they ever attend, that Pride is very important this year,” he stresses. “I think the community is really starting to recognize that if we don’t come out, if we don’t show our pride and be out and be who we are, that’s letting those who wish to silence us win.”
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