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June 16, 2016

Gayborhood bars to unite for massive Orlando fundraiser — with city officials as guest bartenders

LGBT Nightlife
Gayborhood Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

The heart of the Gayborhood, at 12th and Manning streets.

UPDATE: Confirmed guest bartenders include the following: Rue Landau, Councilman Mark Squilla, Councilwoman Helen Gym, Congressman Robert Brady, Captain Jack Ryan of the Sixth District, Senator Larry Farnese and officers from GOAL. It was confirmed on June 23 that Mayor Jim Kenney, State Rep. Brian Sims and Director of LGBT Affairs Nellie Fitzpatrick will also be guest bartenders. 

In response to the shooting at Pulse nightclub early Sunday morning in Orlando, Florida, every bar in Philadelphia's Gayborhood will, for the first time, suspend regular programming to collaborate on an events-focused fundraiser in support of the victims.

The date is set: Thursday, July 21. The evening will begin with a two-hour stretch of city officials (to be named later) serving drinks as guest bartenders at each of the bars. The entertainment kicks off at 9 p.m. Final programming is still to be ironed out, but here are some preliminary details: Franky Bradley's will host its Franky's Foxes drag troupe, Knock will host a karaoke event, Tabu Lounge & Sports Bar will host a burlesque show, Tavern on Camac will host show tunes and Voyeur will be home to a massive drag show. William Way LGBT Community Center, meanwhile, will remain open through the night with a drag show and refreshments, and Stir Lounge, in Rittenhouse, will also be participating. 

Donations will be collected at the door. There will also be more than 1,000 T-shirts for sale at the bars. 

Jeffrey Sotland, who owns Tabu, told PhillyVoice the idea came almost immediately after the tragedy in Orlando, in which 49 people, including Akyra Murray, of Philadelphia, were killed, and 53 people, including 20-year-old Philadelphian Patience Carter, were injured. Sotland told PhillyVoice another victim, who was injured but is on the mend, happens to play for Philadelphia's Stonewall Sports LGBT league. 

The bar owners — Bill Wood (Knock), Michael Weiss (Woody's) and more — met on Tuesday to hammer out the framework for the fundraiser.

Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Voyeur Nightclub's mezzanine lounge.

"This is the first time the group of us has gotten together and really hashed out a ‘This isn’t about us; this isn’t about how many people we can get in our bar like at Outfest,’" Sotland said. "This is about figuring out the way to facilitate the greatest coverage of publicity and fundraising by using the things we have at our disposal."

Sotland added that beer and liquor representatives have been more than generous as they've started planning the event, with more organizations currently reaching out to join in — including bars that don't outwardly identify as LGBT.

“Initially, we didn’t want it to get so big we lose the identity of what we want to do, and yet the bars asking are not LGBT bars and, I think, excluding those bars would be the biggest mistake in this situation because people need and want to know those are the people and organizations who are reaching out to help," Sotland said. "And, quite frankly, the number of performers flocking in, we don’t have enough space for them all — and we want to give that to them."

Each bar, Sotland said, will determine how much of the proceeds are donated. And while there's not yet a set recipient of the funds, he expressed a likelihood that the Orlando LGBT Center will be the beneficiary — and suggested he may fly members of that community center to Philly to participate in the event. William Way, he said, will be tasked with handling the actual donation of funds. 

"This is like an eight-legged octopus," Sotland laughed. "We’re trying to corral it and structure it and keep it focused. But the focus is always going to be this community coming together to help Orlando. 

"We will not lose sight of that."

Want to keep up with the event? RSVP on Facebook.