Orlando nightclub task force meets for first time since Pulse shooting – Orlando Sentinel
An Orlando city leaders first convened the Nightclubs Task Force in December, the group delved into research about venues that stayed open past 2 a.m. and how better lighting could deter crime downtown.
But after the mass shooting at Pulse last month, the group’s focus is shifting to include a look at best security measures to keep guns out of the packed establishments.
The task force, composed of the city’s downtown development board and club owners, met on Tuesday for the first time since the June 12 massacre. About 20 minutes elapsed before any mention of Pulse, the gay club where 49 people were gunned down by a shooter armed with a rifle.
“We all have our opinions of what happened at Pulse … it’s the elephant in the room maybe,” said David Arnott, a police officer and special assistant to the mayor, who helped facilitate the discussion. “A lot of bad things happened and a lot of great things happened. The public safety people did tremendous.”
Once Arnott referenced the attack — and noted this weekend’s shooting at a nightclub in Fort Myers that resulted in the deaths of two teenagers — the venue owners openly shared their procedures for keeping club-goers safe.
John SanFelippo, managing partner at the Beacham and other popular downtown spots, told the crowd of about 50 people that his venues label all doors that don’t lead outside with the disclaimer, “closet.” That can help people find an exit during a frantic situation, he said.
Doug Taylor, managing partner for the string of clubs part of Church Street Entertainment, said his team will be meeting with OPD four times a year to discuss security. Previously they had only met once a year.
“We’re doing that now because our perception of the threat is so dramatically different than it was,” he said. “Not just owners and not just managers, but every single employee that works for us, we’re going to mandate and pay for that training.”
Other city officials, including Orlando Fire Marshal Tammy Hughes, attended the two-hour meeting.
In her remarks, Hughes said her department is seeking funding to put bike paramedics on the streets as downtown roars to life on the weekends.
The task force’s next public meeting will be held in September or October, but the exact date remains unclear.
The group is poised to deliver policy recommendations to the city council by Oct. 31, when the one-year moratorium on after-hours venues expires.
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