A party by a straight nightclub in Charlotte billed as a “Repeal Amendment One Party” by promoters was met this week with raised eyebrows by some members of the city’s LGBT community.
The event, originally called “aMENdment” and renamed “Repeal Amendment One Party,” was posted on Facebook on May 30 and will be held at Butter NC, a nightclub that attracts primarily straight clientele, on Thursday, June 7. Butter NC is located at Uptown’s NC Music Factory, the same complex that currently houses the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte.
Some community members say they are concerned that the club’s initial promotion of the event included no mention of efforts to benefit the LGBT community or continued efforts to ensure equality following the passage of Amendment One, the state constitutional amendment approved on May 8 by 61 percent of North Carolina voters. Effective on Jan. 1, 2013, the amendment will ban all recognition of same-sex marriages and civil unions and could threaten already-existing domestic partner benefits for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.
The event posting, written by Ryan Jones, originally read: “Come out to Butter Charlotte in the NC Music Factory to show your support of the repeal of Amendment One. $3 Domestics, $4 Shots, $5 Well Vodka, & $100 Vodka Bottles. Performances by Natasha De La Mer and special guests. DJ Edward Shouse. Come out and see why Butter Charlotte is the number one spot to party in the QC. : D It’s going to be a crazy night! Message me if you’re interested in a bottle!”
[Update, 8:18 p.m., June 1, 2012: The Facebook event page has been updated to note that "a portion of the proceeds will be donated to a local LGBT group."]
Bobby Kerschner, a 24-year-old gay Charlottean, was invited to the party and asked on the Facebook event page’s wall: “How is this party going to be benefiting the cause? Are they donating proceeds to [the Human Rights Campaign] or a similar organization?”
I expanded on the question, posting: “Happy to see Butter supporting the community, if they truly are. Would be nice to know if funds (portion of door, perhaps) will be donated to groups like Equality NC or if such groups will be invited to speak from the stage or be present with materials to engage and educate party-goers.”
Other Facebook users publicly posted similar sentiments. Additionally, I have heard concerns from acquaintances, as well.
Kerschner told me via phone that he immediately questioned the event upon seeing it.
“At first I was just trying to find out who started the event because it didn’t look like it was a very official-looking event,” Kerschner said. “I wasn’t sure if this was real or actually started by the club. If it was started by Butter, I was thinking this is a great party for repealing the amendment, but what exactly is the party and who is doing it? It didn’t say anything about proceeds going to this cause or that organization or something like having people sign petitions. It just said ‘Repeal Amendment One’ and here are our drink specials. It made no sense at all.”
Kerschner said he was afraid the nightclub might be “exploiting” LGBT community members’ anger over the amendment.
“My biggest concern is that they are exploiting the emotions of the people of Charlotte — exploiting people’s rage about the issue,” Kerschner said. “It’s like having a Halloween party and putting up a Christmas tree. If you’re having a repeal party, what makes it a repeal party? Having a Bud Light doesn’t make it a Repeal Amendment One party.”
I attempted to reach out to Jones via private message and a public posting on his Facebook profile. A phone number was not available. My messages were not returned.
Butter NC promoter and marketer James Nguyen told me via phone that he was working to ensure that the event in some way benefited LGBT community causes. He said the club, which is owned by the New York City-based nightlife duo Richie Akiva and Scott Sartiano, originally intended to have a free cover that night but will now instead charge $10 at the door, with half of that money going toward an LGBT organization. Nguyen said a friend will be suggesting an organization to receive the funds and they are considering Equality North Carolina, the statewide LGBT advocacy and education organization based in Raleigh and which took a lead role in the campaign against Amendment One.
Nguyen said he and some friends had been talking about holding the event for some time. The plan from the beginning, he said, included some sort of support for an LGBT community organization or cause. Nguyen said a friend was also working on securing the presence of an LGBT community organization at the party and said they were talking to the Human Rights Campaign and the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte.
Nguyen said Butter NC’s record of support for the LGBT community should not be questioned.
“1OAK and Butter in New York City,” Nyugen said, referring to Akiva’s and Sartiano’s Big Apple establishments, “are really big supporters of the gay community. I have a lot of gay friends that come in [Butter NC] and they always have a good time.”
A review of North Carolina State Board of Elections financial disclosures from the Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families, the referendum committee which led amendment opposition, showed no recorded contributions in the name of Butter NC, Akiva or Sartiano. According to state law, political committees are required to report the names, addresses and occupational information of contributors giving more than $50.
Butter NC has hosted few, if any, LGBT-oriented nightlife events. JustTwirl, a Charlotte LGBT party promotion company, hosted a “Sweet Tea Twirl” at the nightclub during Memorial Day Weekend. Nguyen said the club hopes to start a weekly or biweekly gay event. In the past, club owner Sartiano has stressed Butter NC’s focus on attracting a heteronormative and heterosexist clientele, telling Charlotte’s Creative Loafing in 2010 that patrons should “arrive with an even guy-to-girl ratio.”