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 serves LGBT customers, though it’s welcoming to all and is 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 told that I would have to go before the Board of Aldermen on June 4 to get approval for my business license. I went into the meeting confident and positive that I would have my business license for O’Hara’s.
Instead, 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 purportedly signed by almost 200 of the town’s 1800 residents. Citizens’ and aldermen’ 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 without citing any legitimate concerns.
After leaving the meeting, I went to the bar, loaded up some personal items and decided I was finished and 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 perform.
I knew that if I walked away, it would be the wrong thing to do. The Southern Poverty Law Center has taken on my case and we are pursuing legal options, but I still want to open my bar and I need help. Please sign my petition and tell the Shannon Board of Alderman to allow me to open my business.
I signed a lease for the building and had all utilities turned on expecting to be in business by now. Currently, I’m struggling to pay the bills because I can’t open the doors. If you are interested in donating to the operational fund http://www.gofundme.com/3xu5k4