Plea for O’Hara’s
This summer I have been trying to reopen a bar, O’Hara’s
that I operated in the 1990’s in Shannon, Mississippi – a small town south of
Tupelo. The bar mainly served LGBT customers, though it was welcoming to all.
The bar was a place where LGBT people could gather and socialize without fear,
and was the only gay bar within about a 100-mile radius.
Since I’ve owned businesses and had owned a bar in Shannon
before, I didn’t think it would be a problem to get a license and reopen O’Hara’s.
I thought it would be easy – just complete the requirements, pass inspection
and like any other business obtain a license and open the doors.
I was wrong.
When I went to apply for the license, I was told that I
would have to go before the Board of Aldermen. So on June 4, I went into the
meeting confident and positive that by the end of the meeting I would have my
business license for O’Hara’s.
That didn’t happen.
Instead, a group of at least 30 townspeople were at the
meeting and my application was at the top of the agenda.I was confronted with a
petition against the bar signed by almost 200 of the town’s 1800 residents.
Citizens and alderman questions were full or fear and even insults. I felt
alone, shocked and frustrated, but I attempted to answer their questions and
addressed their concerns.
Although my application met all the requirements, the board rejected
it citing public health and safety concerns.
After leaving the meeting, I went to the bar, loaded up some
personal items and decided I was finished. I would leave and not return. I
would not open the bar. But while driving, I realized that was exactly what
those people who insulted me wanted me to do and I changed my mind. I thought
about my friends, my customers and the people who needed a place to work and
I knew that if I walked away, it would be the wrong thing to
do. The board could not do this and get away with it. I’m now fighting this
through legal avenues, but I still want to open my bar and I need help. I signed a lease for the building and had all
utilities turned on expecting to have my bar open. Now I’m struggling to pay the bills because I
can’t open the doors. With your help, I
can keep my lease until this legal battle is over.