Atlanta gay bars consider security changes following Orlando shooting

After the deadliest American mass shooting took place in a gay nightclub in Orlando, some Atlanta clubs are taking a look at their own security efforts to ensure that patrons feel safe.

The Orlando shooting took place around 2 a.m. Sunday, June 12, after a shooter barricaded himself inside Pulse nightclub. The suspect, identified as a trained security guard named Omar Mateen, was killed along with his victims.

RELATED: Read the latest on the Orlando shootings

According to Orlando Sentinel reporter Christal Hayes, there was a local police officer working as a security guard at Pulse. The officer and the suspect exchanged gunfire before the suspect barricaded himself inside the club.

Jennifer Maguire, co-owner of lesbian bar My Sister’s Room and a Florida native, lived in Orlando for about six years before moving to Atlanta.

Maguire said her Atlanta bar began implementing strict security about four years ago, initially to the dismay of customers. The change occurred as Maguire was taking over the bar.

“At first, people were pretty upset, but unfortunately, this is what it has come to in the world we live in,” she said.

Everyone who enters the bar is given a “full-body pat-down,” and on weekends, an Atlanta police officer is stationed outside alongside signs that emphasize that weapons and illegal drugs are not allowed in the bar, Maguire said. Inside, two security guards are on hand to make sure that patrons feel secure.

“I’m a paranoid person,” she said. “I want people of all orientations to feel safe (in My Sister’s Room).”

John Hagins, owner and operations manager of gay club Traxx Atlanta, said they also conduct pat-downs at their entrance.

Effective immediately, security will also use hand-held wands to check for “weapons and contraband,” he said.

Hagins said on their busiest nights, including weekends and special events, they have about five security guards to ensure that attendees feel safe. Traxx Atlanta uses security company Black Shield Security as well as off-duty police officers.

Local LGBT bars are not the only people who discussed their security measures following the Orlando shooting.

A spokesperson for Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong declined to comment on future security plans, but noted that an off-duty police officer would be on hand during popular recurring event Sunday Service with DJ Vicki Powell in the evening following the Orlando shooting.

The event, which takes place every second Sunday of the month from April through November, is big among the Atlanta LGBT community and is one of the bar’s most popular events. The use of an off-duty police officer is the standard for this event.

Buckhead Saloon’s general manager, Chad Rook, said they aren’t planning to change their security measures, but noted that they do have security guards at their entrance. They do not conduct pat-downs.

A spokesperson for the Earl said they do not conduct pat-downs, either, but they do have Atlanta police officers and security guards on hand during the weekends. In the hours following the Orlando shooting, the East Atlanta Village bar had not discussed whether it will make changes to its security plans.

Maguire described the Orlando mass shooting as one of her worst nightmares.

She said she is considering extending the hours of the Atlanta police officer stationed outside of My Sister’s Room to ensure that patrons are safe.

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