The Pulse Nightclub has been billed as a sanctuary by owner Barbara Poma, who is now CEO of the OnePULSE Foundation. It was actually a death trap due to a host of unpermitted renovations.
According to public records, the Pulse Nightclub may have never even been permitted to operate as a nightclub, but only as a restaurant (we have asked the City of Orlando to confirm that their approved conditional use permit was ever amended for a nightclub). Furthermore, narrow hallways, the lack of emergency lighting, moved exit doors, the fence, and numerous other significant unpermitted modifications to the interior and exterior of the building were all violations cited in public records. In the aftermath of the shooting, survivors described many of these code violations and unpermitted renovations when chronicling their efforts to escape. The Police Foundation report mentions the club's narrow hallways as being the factor for needing to break into the wall rather than rescuing people through the exits. This is one of the reasons why we call the Pulse Nightclub a death trap. Click on this report and do a keyword search for "narrow hallway."
The Pulse Nightclub was extensively remodeled without legally pulling the proper permits. Exit doors were moved, new walls were erected, narrow hallways were created, a fenced-in patio bar was created, the bathrooms in the main dance floor area were reduced in size… all without permits. Without accurate building plans on record, how did law enforcement navigate the building to rescue hostages? We looked at the records and one officer asked an employee for information on the layout. Did the lack of accurate building plans impede rescue efforts? Is this another factor that led to a 3-hour rescue?
The City of Orlando knew about the un-permitted work for around six years. Yet, none of the work was made legal through the permitting process during this span of time. With supposed paperwork errors, the unpermitted fence, and other fire hazards that are obvious from photos of the nightclub's interior, we have our doubts that the Orlando Fire Department did their fire inspection with the care and accuracy that should be required of businesses that allow more than 299 people inside at any given time. We looked at the Fire Code ourselves compared it to floorplans and photos of the club's interior.
See the Orlando Sentinel article about the unpermitted fence and renovations, here.
Also, see about the Fire Department's claimed "paperwork error," here.
You can also see the difference for yourself by looking at the public records released by the City of Orlando. Below, we have provided the last legally-approved floorplans (2003) on record with the City of Orlando's Permitting Division and the actual floorplans that were current at the time of the shooting (2010):
This means Rosario Poma and Barbara Poma were willing to put LGBTQ+ lives at risk for their own profits. For this reason, we believe they have never been LGBTQ+ allies. The Pulse Nightclub was not the sanctuary they claimed to have created. It was a death trap. Watch the video below:
The evidence shows that Ms. Poma has always had only her financial interest at heart. This is also evidenced by the nightclub’s "frequent overcrowding," which also put LGBTQ+ people and their allies at risk. See the WFTV investigation into the club's capacity. While the OneOrlando Fund counted 299 claimants—the exact capacity limit of the Pulse Nightclub—the National Compassion Fund has 305 victims/survivors on record. Since many people do not sign up for financial assistance, the originally reported number of patrons (321) is most likely closer to reality. The nightclub was also required by the City of Orlando to use a clicker counter and maintain accurate counts of people entering and exiting the club at all times. If they did their job, there should be absolutely no discrepancy about the number of people there that night. What was the number on the clicker counter? Also, if at least 305 people were there during last-call when bullets were first sprayed upon the crowd, it is likely that there were more people in the club before the shooting even happened and that the club was over capacity that night. Evidence and past business practices suggest that this is the case.
Since our formation, we have been calling out Barbara Poma for her willingness to exploit the mass shooting tragedy, the deaths of our loved ones, and our collective grief for her own personal enrichment. We believe that in order to fight injustice you must confront it head-on. In this particular instance, injustice has a face and a name.
Through the OnePULSE Foundation non-profit, Ms. Poma has manufactured a way to make a living off her former customers even after their murder. She has the support of local governments and major corporations, securing a new entrepreneurial endeavor without the risks of owning a gay bar in Orlando. The OnePULSE Foundation and its museum project first and foremost secure Ms. Poma's financial future into perpetuity. Even though she helped build the conditions that may have led to additional deaths and injury, as the evidence suggests, she has been given leadership awards by LGBT organizations across the country.
We demand that Rosario Poma and Barbara Poma publicly address permitting issues, apologize, immediately dissolve the OnePULSE Foundation, donate all remaining funds directly to survivors in need, and hand over the Pulse property to victims' families and survivors as restitution for the continued pain they have inflicted and the division they have caused in our community through the museum project. We also demand local and federal investigations into the club's capacity that night, through forensic analyses of bar tabs, drink receipts, and cash register transactions. We also demand to know the count on the nightclub's clicker if it was not 321 (this seems like an odd number for a staff estimate). Furthermore, we call upon the Florida Bar to look into the actions of attorneys whom we believe have caused irreparable harm to the most vulnerable people in Orlando.
A forensic accountant must review all fundraising and spending since the OnePULSE Foundation’s start, with special attention to the celebrity fundraiser, first-class travel expenses, conflicts of interest, and management fees. We also ask for legal experts to look into the OnePULSE Foundation’s “business practices” as a non-profit and evaluate many of the issues we have outlined throughout our site. We demand that the museum project is terminated immediately since it has been exposed for what it has been all along—an effort to turn Orlando's mass shooting into a revenue-generating event.
Our exposé also dismantles another narrative: that the gay bar was ever a sanctuary. As LGBTQ+ people, our safety has always been an illusion. Let us not forget the true danger that we are always in. Let's not pretend that the temporary spaces we carve out in our cities, neighborhoods, and streets protect us from global forms of ongoing violence. We must protect ourselves by fighting against the violence and greed of capitalism that always seeks to take advantage of us and profit off our deaths, trauma, and injury. We must form new bonds of trust, recognize the value of personal sacrifice, and work together to lift each other up. Corporations and elected officials will never do the work that needs to be done. We are our own protectors.
Join us now and let’s build a 100% public memorial park together, as volunteers, as we should have done on June 13, 2016.
Together, we exposed this truth and we will continue to fight for justice for the 49, their families, and all survivors. Our work is still not done.