Almost three weeks after a gunman opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle inside a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, killing five people and injuring 25, LGBTQ+ bars in Cincinnati are still thinking about how they can keep customers and staff safe.
Jessica Dimon is the show director at Bloom OTR, an LGBTQ+ nightclub that hosts frequent drag shows in the space once occupied by Below Zero on Walnut Street in Over-the-Rhine. Dimon told CityBeat that Bloom’s staff raised $3,000 for the survivors of the shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs during a Dec. 2 event. The tragedy has remained top of mind for Bloom, shaping how the staff thinks about safety, she said.
“I think Colorado was an eye-opening moment for us that we realized we are not completely safe, people are after us, we are targeted,” she said. “It was a reminder that we need to be cautious and aware.”
Dimon said customers can expect a thorough scan from a security guard before entering Bloom, including a metal wand checking bags and coats for weapons. She said security measures continue inside the bar.
“If you’re here on a weekend you’ll see our security posted all around. They look for any kind of weirdness,” Dimon said.
Dimon is Bloom’s host, introducing performers and holding patrons in the palm of her hand throughout the night as the club’s ringleader. She says that part of her responsibility is making sure customers know what to do in an emergency.
“When I open a show I always make sure our customers know where our exits are. It could be a fire, it could be anything. Just making sure they know I got them and they got me,” she said. “I think with the shooting that just happened, we’re all very vigilant.”
The cost of security in queer spacesStix Newman has performed as Stixen Stones for five years all over Cincinnati, most frequently at Good Judy’s in Northside, a gay dive bar with frequent drag shows.
She told CityBeat that Good Judy’s recently hired a security guard, but security in queer bars can vary widely across town.
“If I’m honest with you, a lot of queer bars in town don’t have a ton of security. We may have a bar back that’s security,” she said. “It’s something that isn’t that well enforced, partially because when you bring law enforcement into queer spaces, it usually makes us suffer. We have to be careful about who we hire for security guards and make sure that they are also queer.”
Newman said added security for gay bars is a great idea, but it can be financially inaccessible for smaller bars.
“A lot of the queer bars in town are small spaces and are run by run-of-the-mill people that might not have investors. We’re trying to keep up with the amount of things that we have to pay for, just keeping the space together. Metal detectors and beefing up security is very expensive,” she said.
Metal detector wands often used by club bouncers can cost around $150 online. The average hourly pay for a security guard in Cincinnati is $15 per hour, according to Indeed.
Chasity Marie performs at Bloom. While she fears for the safety of her community, she told CityBeat that she won’t let her fear show.
“Things right after [the Colorado shooting] were scary coming to work, but also, we can’t be scared. Because if we’re scared and we stop what we’re doing, we’re letting them win,” she said. “I think a big thing moving forward is making sure everyone knows the emergency exits in case something like that unfortunately happens in our city.”
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