Representatives of D.C.’s LGBT nightclubs and bars and an official with an organization representing them said this week they have been preparing for incidents like the Orlando gay nightclub shooting that claimed the lives of 49 people.
Longtime gay nightlife advocate Mark Lee, who serves as executive director of the D.C. Nightlife Hospitality Association, said his organization provides regularly scheduled training sessions in the field of security to most of the city’s popular nightlife establishments, including those catering to the LGBT community.
According to Lee, his association co-hosted a briefing for club owners and their security personnel in January in which D.C. police and the city’s Homeland Security Bureau joined the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI in presenting updated recommendations on measures to prevent and respond to situations similar to the Orlando shooting incident.
Lee said the DCNHA also arranges for a security training consulting firm to provide ongoing training sessions for security personnel and other employees of D.C. bar and nightclub establishments. He said the next session is scheduled for July 25-26.
“It’s an intensive, two-day, 12-hour program,” Lee said. “It’s very hands on, practical and interactive,” he said. “And it provides certification in the training program for managers, owners, operations staff, and door and security personnel who are sometimes known as bouncers.”
In the aftermath of the Orlando tragedy, several D.C. gay clubs issued statements, some on Facebook, expressing solidarity with the customers, staff, and owners of Pulse nightclub, the Orlando gay establishment where the shooting rampage took place.
Officials with the gay clubs Town Danceboutique, Cobalt, JR.’s, and Green Lantern said they have stepped up existing security procedures following the Orlando incident. David Perruzza, general manager of JR.’s, joined officials at Cobalt and Green Lantern in not allowing customers to bring bags into their clubs.
“Already people trying to bring bags in,” Perruzza said in a Facebook posting on June 12. “Seriously people – don’t put me in the awkward position today to tell you no if you’re a regular customer,” he said. “Cause I am not bending the rules.”
Town issued a statement on Monday outlining its longstanding security measure that includes multiple video cameras and the presence of uniformed D.C. police officers outside the club’s main entrance. The statement says the club also has “a number of policies and procedures in place that we do not discuss publicly as divulging those details would undermine their effectiveness.”
Capt. Cheryl Crawley who oversees the D.C. police LGBT Liaison Unit, stated in an email to LGBT activists earlier this week that officers with the LGBT unit have been assigned to monitor LGBT clubs on a more frequent basis since the Orlando attack.
Channing Phillips, the United States Attorney for D.C., issued a statement on Tuesday expressing condolences over the Orlando shooting and pointing to his office’s ongoing efforts to work with the local LGBT community to combat anti-LGBT violence, including hate crimes.
“Together with our law enforcement partners, we will do all that we can to assist the LGBT community during this troubling time and to strengthen safety and security,” Phillips said.
Lee said the nation’s capital is filled with places that are potential targets for attacks, including the Metro system and other public spaces such as parks and plazas.
“I would suggest that because of the attentiveness, training, and security awareness and just practical control over their environment that, in fact, the city’s restaurants, bars and nightclubs are among the safest public spaces in the city,” Lee said.