After Orlando, Some Phoenix Gay Bars Increase Security

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The shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, has sent shockwaves throughout the world, and the Phoenix gay community is no exception. There is a brutal randomness to the attack that almost says, "there but for the grace of God go I."

"I'm shocked and concerned," says John Martinez, who owns the gay bar Karamba's, located on East McDowell Road and 17th Street. "What happened there is something that could happen anywhere."

But in between the mourning and the processing that must follow such an attack, the community has not stood still.

There were vigils on Sunday, less than a day after the attack. On Tuesday, BS West in Scottsdale hosted a drag-show fundraiser and raised more than $10,000 for victims, and on Wednesday, Charlie's, the oldest gay bar in Phoenix, had a fundraiser as well.

Some gay-bar owners will increase security in the wake of the attacks, though, as Sgt. Jonathan Howard told New Times, clubs must ensure their own security. He says police have offered assistance to those who sought it out.

"Private venue security remains the responsibility of the venue itself," Howard says. "Our officers have met with several of our established community groups to ensure we have shared any information available that would help them protect themselves and responded to their questions and concerns."

Still, it's hard not to worry in the wake of a mass shooting targeting a sexual minority group.

"What I worry is that someone will get hurt in my bar. That scares me to death," says Stacy Louis, owner of Stacy's on Melrose, located at Seventh and Turney avenues.

On Sunday, Louis hosted a vigil at his bar, separate from the one held in downtown Phoenix Sunday night by Phoenix Pride LGBT Center. That day, he welcomed the sight of additional police around his bar.

"What a great thing to have them there," Louis says. "I heard them calming down some of the customers. It was quite a tearful event."

Martinez plans to step up security at Karamba, though he is already in the practice of employing uniformed, off-duty police officers to help man the door on busy nights. He also has a team of bar security to handle matters inside the club. But he will now use a metal-detecting wand on everyone who enters the club. He previously only employed the wand for the after-hours crowd.

Still, Martinez, who married his long-term partner just months after a Supreme Court decision legalized same-sex marriage in Arizona last year, is confident that the tragedy will not undo the civil-rights progress achieved by the LGBT movement.

I'm an optimist. I'm gay and married to another guy," Martinez says. "I think this is a time that will see more people pull together, not the other way around."

Louis more or less agrees.

"I don't see this as a reason to go back in the closet for the gay community. I don't think that one event like this — I don't think this should make us stay home," he says. "I'm not saying that as a gay bar owner. I'm saying that as a human. … You've got to live your life."

The Phoenix Police Department released the following statement about the shooting:

"In the wake of the tragedy experienced in Orlando, Florida, Chief Joseph Yahner and the Phoenix Police Department want to extend our deepest sympathies to the entire Orlando community, especially the victims, their families, the first responders, and others directly impacted by this horrific act of violence. Events like this impact communities worldwide. The professionalism and compassion seen in the Florida community has been remarkable.

Phoenix Police Officers are assigned full time to the Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center. Both groups consist of a variety of local, county, state, and federal partners to ensure constant and consistent sharing of any information that may impact our local communities.

Although we are not aware of any credible information at this time that would have an impact here, community involvement remains critical to help ensure our safety. We encourage everyone to remain vigilant and report suspicious behaviors; 'if you see something, say something.'"

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