Sitting on the patio of the Mercantile Saloon on Friday afternoon, Frannie Brennan couldn’t help but glance over her shoulder at the iron fence separating her from L Street.
“If someone came out on the street there and shot at us through this fence, how many could they kill?”
Brennan, a 40-year-old Army veteran who describes herself as gender-fluid, has been feeling on edge in the days following the Orlando, Fla., nightclub shooting rampage that killed 49 and injured dozens. She’s been scanning through the faces of the victims, planning how she would protect her loved ones if a gunman came blazing into one of the LGBT bars she frequents.
“I find myself more aware than normal, and more scared than normal, to be who I am,” said Brennan. “It so easily could have been us.”
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Following the devastating attack last weekend, midtown Sacramento’s LGBT nightclubs and bars are adding metal detectors, changing dress codes and rearranging security staff to protect worried patrons.
The massacre committed by 29-year-old gunman Omar Mateen at the gay dance club Pulse early Sunday morning shook Sacramento’s LGBT community this week, triggering vigils, art gatherings and even protests. It also concerned security staff at local nightclubs, who will be more alert this weekend than ever to the threat of violence, said Johnathan Cameron, general manager at Badlands, The Depot and Sidetrax, all on K Street.
The owner of the three clubs spoke to all of his managers Sunday morning about how, if at all, operations should change in the aftermath of the massacre.
“Our eyes are more aware, more observant,” Cameron said. “But you can’t start being negative, and you can’t start wondering what if. ... When you allow the fear to take over, you’ve lost and they’ve won.”
Security guards at the three clubs will be covering more ground than before, Cameron said, with more space to roam the dance floors and patios while entrance duties are covered by barbacks or other employees.
The Mercantile Saloon, known by regulars as “the Merc,” began using metal-detecting wands to scan visitors at the door earlier this week, said bartender Onna Juarez.
Faces nightclub will also be using wands this weekend, in addition to enforcing a new dress code that bans backpacks and oversized purses.
The Sacramento Police Department has been pitching in with security, having sent uniformed officers patrolling around the clock in the Lavender Heights area since last weekend, said public information officer Traci Trapani. Although there are currently no known threats in Sacramento, the increased police presence will continue indefinitely, she said.
“We want our community to feel safe and secure at these events,” she said. “We want to remind the public to be vigilant and aware of your surroundings. If you see anything, call us or dial 911.”
Even with the massacre in mind, Cameron said nightclubs shouldn’t take security measures so far that it dampens the mood. He noted that his clubs will not be incorporating metal detecting wands.
“We don’t want our customers to feel as if they’re walking into a prison,” he said. “We want you to have a good time. When you start adding all those elements, that makes it kind of a negative experience.”
I find myself more aware than normal, and more scared than normal, to be who I am. It so easily could have been us.
Frannie Brennan, patron at The Mercantile Saloon
Stens Christensen, a 33-year-old Sacramento resident and member of the local Gay Men’s Chorus, said he’s been out socializing every night since the attack, showing confidence and supporting others in the community.
“If we stop coming out, then we’re letting the fear win,” he said.