CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With the Democratic National Convention expected to bring thousands of visitors, businesses in the LGBT community are hard at work ensuring they make a good impression.
At the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte, staffers and board members teamed up to give away 20 credentials to LGBT bloggers and others. The credentials offer access to coworking and event space in Uptown organized by The PPL, an effort to involve independent artists, bloggers, and citizen journalists in convention activities.
“We want to make sure that we aren’t just there but that we actually have a voice and it is being heard,” said O’Neale Atkinson, operations manager for the center, located at the NC Music Factory in Uptown Charlotte.
Atkinson calls the convention a “historic” moment for Charlotte that will bring with it the nation’s attention. And so Atkinson said the center plans to stay open for extended hours.
“This is an opportunity for us to gain visibility not just for the center but for the whole community,” he said. “We’re definitely going to try to take advantage of the opportunity by making the center as accessible as possible throughout the week.”
The center, usually open only in the evenings for events and for public drop-ins, will be open each day from noon until 8 p.m. during the week of the convention. Center organizers also plan on extended hours Saturday, the night DNC officials host visiting media for a welcome party.
Atkinson said the center will provide journalists with complimentary refreshments and information about the local community. During the week of the convention, Atkinson said refreshments and other services such as work space and free Wi-Fi are available to visitors.
In other parts of Uptown, Hartigan’s Irish Pub, a lesbian-owned restaurant, bar, and club popular with LGBT customers, is preparing for a big event Thursday That night President Obama gives his acceptance speech at Bank of America Stadium. Afterward, the entire Maryland delegation will celebrate at Hartigan’s.
“The DNC is going to be huge news,” co-owner Jill Phillips said with evident excitement. But she’s concerned about business before that Thursday. As the pub is next to Bank of America Stadium, Phillips said security checkpoints, traffic and street closures might keep away many of her regulars.
“With the traffic, the proximity will hurt us before the Maryland delegation gets there,” she said. “A lot of people are going to stay away. We might have some specials and decorations to celebrate the DNC being here, but we’re just looking forward to the Maryland delegates.”
Phillips says she’ll enjoy the experience, one many have said is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. She expects an influx of regular customers back to her business the weekend after the convention.