“We will open again,” he said during a fundraiser for Pulse Nightclub staff that took place at Southern Nights, a gay bar that is located east of downtown Orlando. “We’re going to be better. We’re going to fight.”
A number of local drag queens took part in the fundraiser.
Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” and Kelly Clarkson’s “People Like Us” are two of the songs that played throughout the night as televisions throughout the bar showed a slideshow of memorials to the victims of the Pulse Nightclub massacre.
Southern Nights did not charge a cover, but it encouraged those who attended the fundraiser to make a donation. Many people who were inside the bar had rainbow fans they received in exchange for a contribution to the fundraising effort.
A number of people — many with tears in their eyes — were hugging and comforting each other.
Kyle Levi, who volunteered his time to speak on behalf of Southern Nights, told the Washington Blade outside the bar that 100 percent of the fundraiser’s proceeds will go to Pulse Nightclub staff.
“Our goal tonight is to make sure that they take their time off so they don’t have to worry about their bills so they can take their time to emotionally, mentally, physically heal and make sure that they can have their time to do what they need to do before they get back into the scene or attempt to bartend again or work in another club in Orlando,” said Levi.
Pulse Nightclub massacre ‘a personal invasion’
The fundraiser took place four days after a gunman killed 49 people and injured dozens of others inside Pulse Nightclub.
Levi told the Blade that many of Southern Nights’ bartenders and managers once worked at Pulse Nightclub. He also noted the fundraiser took place on the first night the club was open since the massacre.
“We have a lot of cross-over between our two bars so it’s a very tight-knit community,” Levi told the Blade. “Our goal was really to make sure that as our extended Southern Nights family that they’re taken care of so they don’t have to worry about any of their expenses.”
Levi — a native of North Carolina who moved to Orlando eight years ago — told the Blade that he knows a few people who were injured inside Pulse Nightclub, but he was not close with any of them.
He said a friend who lives next door to Pulse Nightclub called him shortly after 2 a.m. on Sunday and asked whether he “had heard anything or seen anything.” Levi told the Blade that he heard gunshots in the background while he was on the phone with his friend.
“It was sort of a personal invasion because it’s our sanctuary,” he said, referring to the massacre. “[Pulse Nightclub is] our place that we come to be who we want to be and to have that sort of violated is my healing that I’m going to have to go through to feel better about going out.”
Levi also applauded Orlando’s LGBT community for rallying behind Bahrami and his Pulse Nightclub colleagues.
“I knew the community was great, but really seeing it in full force is probably one of the best things that you can feel and help you cope with your personal interactions with nightclubs in Orlando and being gay in Orlando,” Levi told the Blade.