Owner of Memphis gay bar undeterred after mass shooting; spreads message of love, tolerance

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — After a mass shooting at a gay bar in Colorado Springs, Colo. last weekend, bars around the Mid-South are re-evaluating security protocol.

“It’s a different world now,” said Tami Montgomery, owner of DRUS Bar, a LGBTQ-friendly bar in Memphis’ Midtown neighborhood.

RELATED: ‘Love rather than hate’: Memphis LGBTQ+ community advocate responds to mass shooting

Montgomery took over the bar in 2008.

Inside the empty bar, closed during non-business hours Sunday, she spoke with a reporter about the shooting at Club Q, which left five people dead, and 17 others wounded when a gunman opened fire inside the club.

The rampage ended when the gunman was taken down by a military veteran and a patron of the establishment.

DRUS Bar is one of two openly gay bars located in city neighborhoods.

“I think you’d have to be insane not to worry that something could happen … we just take every precaution we can,” Montgomery said.

Those precautions included armed security and the addition of open windows, in Montgomery’s words, so they can see what may be coming. Both precautions were put in place in 2016, shortly after the mass shooting at Pulse in Orlando, another gay club.

DRUS Bar is considered a safe space for the LGBTQ community and is also the home to drag shows held during business hours, including one held Saturday and another planned for the Dec. holidays, Montgomery said.

Asked if she felt the openness made the bar a target, Montgomery said she “never felt that [and] never really considered operating any other way.”

“We’ve always said exactly what we were,” she said. “We are a part of the Memphis community, not just the LGBTQ+ community. I don’t want to run an underground club that I have to hide. If you aren’t hurting anybody than we’ll love you.”

Montgomery said love will continue to be spread even as the LGBTQ community has become the target of political rhetoric and legislation.

“I’ve never thought of hating anyone who’s heterosexual. It really makes absolutely no sense. People are scared of things that are different,” Montgomery said.

“It will eventually get better. Do I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better? Probably.”