LGBT-friendly bars take stock, raise funds after Orlando attack

The Arch & Column Pub has been a destination for Columbia’s LGBT community for 14 years. Situated on the city’s north side, the small building has a sign bearing the pub’s name. A rainbow flag flies from its roof.

This week, the building featured an additional accessory: Black plastic, made to look like an armband, was draped around its exterior to honor victims of the Orlando shooting.

In the aftermath of Sunday’s attack on a gay night club in Orlando that left 49 people dead and 53 injured, the LGBT community in Columbia came together to raise money to cover funeral costs for families of the Orlando victims.

“We were trying to think what else can we do to soften the pain,” said Pitt Potter, owner of the Arch & Column. “We thought helping with funeral expenses would be a thoughtful gesture, and that is the angle we are working on right now.”

Efforts to raise funds have been made all across the state and nation. In its first five days, a campaign on crowdfunding site GoFundMe raised more than $5.3 million for victims of the shooting.

The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of the Ozarks in Springfield held a fundraiser for the Orlando victims on Monday. Several gay bars in Kansas City are collaborating to host a fundraiser on June 25, Fox 4 reports. Independence Place, a gay club in Cape Girardeau, held a show Thursday to benefit a victims fund, CBS affiliate KFVS reports.

The Yin Yang Night Club on Columbia’s south side is an LGBT-friendly club known for its drag shows. The club will host a benefit show Saturday.

Club owner Jess Davis said that in light of recent events the Yin Yang Club will have am armed police officer at the show for extra protection.

“The attacks for sure impacted how we handle our security,” Davis said. He noted that the club had planned a training session for how to handle emergency situations and that it’s in the process of hiring extra security staff.

Potter, however, said he doesn’t think an incident like the attack in Orlando will happen in Columbia.

“I don’t think there will be any copycats,” he said.

On Monday, the first night the Arch & Column was open for business after the Orlando attack, Potter said the pub saw normal traffic. But when asked about his reaction to the tragedy, Potter struggled to find the right words.

“How do you respond to such a senseless act?” Potter asked. “Hard to say. The social fabric needs a little bit of mending more so than anything else.”

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