LGBT Center’s open house for DNC journalists nearly canceled

Local partner The PPL steps up to offer passes to restricted-access media party planned by Charlotte in 2012 Host Committee

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: August 30, 2012 in News

Originally published: Aug. 30, 2012, 8:20 a.m.
Updated: Aug. 30, 2012, 11:41 a.m.

Members of the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte’s staff, board and volunteers gather on Aug. 23 to talk about their plans for the upcoming DNC and their recent Pride Charlotte Festival, held Aug. 25-26. (from left: Pride Charlotte volunteer Riley Murray, LGBT Center Operations Manager O’Neale Atkinson, Pride Charlotte Treasurer Jenny Richeson and LGBT Center Board Chair Scott Coleman).

CHARLOTTE — A planned open house for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) journalists at the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte came close to being shut down on Wednesday. Staff there learned yesterday that its offices at the NC Music Factory would be off-limits to members of the public during a media welcome party planned for this Saturday by the Democratic National Convention’s local Charlotte in 2012 Host Committee. Fortunately for organizers, a local media partner has stepped up to the plate to offer their staff, board members and other local LGBT leaders passes to this weekend’s restricted media welcome event.

The LGBT Community Center of Charlotte had planned on inviting their staff, board members and leaders of other local LGBT community organizations to their offices to meet and greet members of the media. The drop-in was designed to provide both LGBT and mainstream media an opportunity to learn more about Charlotte’s diverse communities.

“The LGBT Community Center of Charlotte wants to be an accessible resource during the DNC for our community, visitors to our city, incoming delegates and the media,” Center Operations Manager O’Neale Atkinson said in an emailed statement. “With Saturday’s media event being held in the NC Music Factory where The Center is located, we saw this as an incredible opportunity to increase our visibility during this historic time.”

But an email to the LGBT Center from the Music Factory’s property management company put all of those plans into jeopardy on Wednesday.

“As you may have heard, there will be restricted access to [the NC Music Factory] this coming Saturday all day (6:00 a.m. until 10:30 pm) for the DNC Media Party,” ARK Group Vice President of Entertainment Ken Thomas wrote. “No one will be able to get in that day without a credential or media pass issued by the DNC Host Committee.”

Thomas told qnotes the restrictions were part of their company’s agreement with the Charlotte in 2012 Host Committee. He said he didn’t know the LGBT Center was planning an open house.

“It would be pretty cool to do it,” Ark said after learning about the event, “but it would have to all go through the DNC host committee. It’s totally their gig.”

The PPL (theppl.us), a local organization working to ensure access to DNC-related events to independent artists, bloggers and citizens journalists, responded to the news quickly. They offered to let members of the LGBT Community Center’s staff and board use five of their remaining media party passes.

Atkinson said the passes will allow himself, board members and others access to their offices. He’s looking forward to helping welcome journalists to the Queen City.

“We encourage anyone interested to please come and visit The Center and we are prepared to assist media make appropriate contacts within the local LGBT community to ensure that our voice is heard during the DNC,” he said.

Atkinson also thanked The PPL for their generosity in providing the additional media party passes. The LGBT Community Center and The PPL had previously partnered on several other projects related to the upcoming DNC, including an initiative to award 20 LGBT bloggers, community members and other independent media and artists credentialed access to The PPL’s coworking and event space at Packard Place in Uptown Charlotte.

Josh Field, director of communications at the Charlotte in 2012 Host Committee, told qnotes on Thursday morning that the host committee had contracted for exclusive use of the NC Music Factory facilities but was never told any group might be displaced.

“We were never made aware than any particular facility would have to be closed,” Field said, adding that the decision to limit access to occupants would have been a decision made by the NC Music Factory’s property management company. ”We can’t tell them what to tell their tenants,” he added.

Field also said members of the host committee were currently reaching out to the LGBT Center. “Knowing that they will be displaced there will be outreach to make sure they can attend the event,” he said.

In a follow-up conversation with qnotes later Thursday morning the Music Factory’s Ken Thomas confirmed that members of the LGBT Center’s staff and board would be allowed access to their office space.

“If they need to get to their office we can make arrangements for them to get there, “Williams said, noting his initial concern over direct access to the planned Charlotte in 2012 media party. “We’ll make sure they are able to get there and do what they had intended to do.”

The LGBT Community Center is located 820 Hamilton St., Suite B11, on the ground floor of the NC Music Factory complex, where the Charlotte in 2012 Host Committee will provide hospitality and entertainment to the nearly 15,000 journalists and other members of the media expected to attend the DNC next week. The Charlotte in 2012 committee has spent “a couple million” dollars, according to committee CEO Dan Murray, to rent the entire 37-acre complex including its 14 event and performance venues including the Time Warner Cable Amphitheater and several restaurants and bars.

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