When he looks at a map, Thomas Malan knows the man who murdered 49 people and injured 53 more at Pulse night club in Orlando in June could have just as easily driven to from Fort Pierce to South Florida. The distances are similar.
“It could have been any one of us, any one of our bars.”
For all the bars (and restaurants) spared the violence, Malan, as part of One Orlando South Florida, is helping to organize two events to raise money for the victims and survivors of Pulse.
Latin Night will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 14 and Dine Out Orlando will be on Thursday, Sept. 15. Both events are part of a week honoring the victims of Orlando – Sept. 11 to 17. How Latin Night is celebrated will be up to each business owner. The Latin Night theme was chosen because the Pulse attack happened when that club had its own Latin Night. Dine Out will consist of bars and restaurant owners donating a certain percentage (determined by them) of that day’s tabs. Malan said the inspiration came from Philly4Pulse, which raised over $106,000 for the victims.
One Philadelphia bar owner who participated in Philly4Pulse, Jeffrey Sotland, is advising the organizers of the South Florida fundraiser. In a Philadelphia Gay News article, he said the rules governing normal business competition went out the window when the Orlando fundraiser was announced.
“On any given night, we will compete with each other for every customer who walks into the neighborhood. On this night we will not. This is not just about people in Orlando. This could happen at a nightclub anywhere. I think we all feel a sense of horror. Nobody ever wants this to happen again. Never in the history of the city have all the bar owners come together and unequivocally said, ‘We are in!’”
So far, Rumors Bar & Grill and Courtyard Café, both in Wilton Manors, have confirmed participation but Malan expects more to join in over the next few weeks.
“We’d like to include everyone in the South Florida region, not just the businesses on the Drive. We are inviting every LGBTQ owned business, and really any business to participate. In fact, we would really like to see more straight allies and friends join us for this event to show their support.”
Funds raised will be given to three organizations – OneOrlando, Equality Florida and the One Pulse Fund.
A report by NPR, estimated the total healthcare cost of the attack will be about $1 million.
A GoFundMe page set up by Equality Florida has raised $7.6 million of its $10 million goal.
In addition to participating bars and restaurants, One Orlando South Florida is also looking for a 501(c)(3) community organization to act as fiduciary to account for the money raised. Money is also needed to buy shirts and event passes to sell and raise more money.