CLE gay bar owners concerns heightened by Orlando shooting, upcoming RNC

CLE gay bar owners concerns heightened by Orlando shooting, upcoming RNC
Law enforcement identified the gunman as Omar Mateen, of Port St. Lucie, FL. (Source: Social Media via CNN)

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The shooting tragedy at the gay nightclub in Orlando has club owners around the country, including here in Ohio, on alert.

Security protocol is taking center stage, as club owners acknowledge a mass shooting can happen at anytime and anywhere.

It always comes in the aftermath of a tragedy like Orlando. We always ask, "What can be done to prevent it from happening elsewhere, from happening here in particular?"

For bars catering to the gay community though, the worry is unfortunately nothing new. Cleveland has plenty of gay bars, and patrons have reason to be on edge, especially after what happened in Florida.

"Well, we're always concerned about security," said Ed Bixler, who owns the Hawk on the city's west. It's small in size, but big in popularity and history -- it has been a gay bar for 40 years.

"I mean how can you prepare or stop something like that?" he asked. He hired an off duty police officer a few weeks ago and he has his staff trained to keep an eye out for potential problems with patrons, but, he said, that can only go so far. Even a metal detector at the door won't do the job against someone like the Orlando shooter, he said.  "… by the time you detected them coming in with a gun they could pull it out and start shooting."

It wasn't long ago the Cleveland area LGBT community felt very threatened. Surveillance video captured a gang attack of a patron right outside another west side gay bar in 2013.  Also, security cameras caught a group of teens throwing rocks at the same place on Detroit Road.

Now three years later, the Orlando incident is an eye-opener as far how extreme such hate can really go. "It's unfortunate the world we live in," Bixler said. While he isn't sure what he can do to better protect patrons, you can bet he and others are brainstorming for a plan.

Another bar owner stresses, adding pressure to come up with a plan and soon: the huge crowds expected to come with the RNC next month.

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