Orlando's LGBT Bars Respond Differently To Pulse Massacre
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
The Orlando shootings have shocked and angered LGBT-owned business owners in the city. Before the attack, Orlando was actually a major destination for gay nightlife. NPR's Kirk Siegler reports the city's dozen or so gay bars and nightclubs are responding differently to the attack.
KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: Savoy, a small neighborhood gay bar in Orlando's Lake Ivanhoe district, is crowded - people drinking and laughing. The music is loud. It seems pretty normal until the owner, Brian Llewellyn, gestures toward a black SUV idling outside the front door and an armed security guard behind its tinted windows.
BRANDON LLEWELLYN: There's been a lot of rumors, so you know, we're just taking the extra precaution to have him here just to be safe.
SIEGLER: This type of precaution at Savoy is a first. But then again, Llewellyn says everyone is still rattled. Yesterday a man came in here carrying a gun, saying it was for his own protection. Carrying a gun in a bar is illegal in Florida, and a nervous Llewellyn called the police who escorted the man out.
LLEWELLYN: I mean obviously everybody's a little on edge, but you know, nobody's going to stay at home and hide.
SIEGLER: He says his staff and patrons are anxious, but they're still showing up. Orlando has a thriving gay nightlife scene. At least one of the largest gay clubs closed after the shooting at the request of police so safety and security protocols can be reassessed. Orlando's Metropolitan Business Association - the gay chamber - says other LGBT businesses have closed to give their employees time to grieve. Yet many more are staying open without added security.
Across town at the Parliament House resort, a few men lounge at the outdoor pool in the stifling humidity. Others sip cocktails out of plastic cups, swapping stories about lost love ones. One man in a pride shirt completely breaks down and leaves quickly.
In a room off one of the many bars with fans buzzing overhead, the club's entertainment manager, Tim Evanicki, says they're trying to keep it business as usual here. They have to.
TIM EVANICKI: You know, for the past 41 years, we've been a place for the community to come in times of crisis.
SIEGLER: Evanicki says the resort army already had tough security in place with a significant Orlando police presence before the shooting. Later this week, the club will hold a Latin night and fundraiser. It was Latin night last weekend at Pulse when the attack occurred, and many of the victims were from central Florida's LGBT Latino community.
EVANICKI: We are going to continue to stay open. It's the best way that we know how to help - is to just stay here and be here for the community like we always have been.
SIEGLER: As for Pulse, most people will tell you it's too soon to even talk about when or if it will reopen. It's still an active crime scene. The streets around it are barricaded with police. TV news choppers hover overhead.
Robin Maynard runs a women's clinic here on Orange Avenue just a few blocks away. She's closed due to the barricades, and she and her employees are out handing out water, sunscreen and other supplies to victims' families over at the hospital. She says her heart's broken but not her spirit.
ROBIN MAYNARD: I'll tell you right now. We will not be forced back into the closet by gunmen. We will not shut down. We will not live in fear.
SIEGLER: And Maynard says this community will not succumb to terrorism. Kirk Siegler, NPR News, Orlando.
[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: We incorrectly give Brandon Llewellyn's first name as Brian.]
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Correction June 20, 2016
We incorrectly give Brandon Llewellyn's first name as Brian.