NBTF is local concern in HB 2 boycott

NBTF  is local concern in HB 2 boycott
May 05
07:00 2016

Attracting businesses, tourism and events also in jeopardy



With many boycotting North Carolina because of HB 2, events that draw visitors from out of state, like next year’s National Black Theatre Festival, may be affected.

Other cities have felt the effects in high profile ways, like cancellations at the High Point Furniture Market and Bruce Springsteen canceling his concert in Greensboro in protest of the law, which opponents say is discriminatory.

Locally, the National Black Theatre Festival would be the biggest out-of-state draw in the city, as attendees from all over the nation and the world come to see its plays. The 2015 festival saw a 10 percent growth in ticket sales with nearly 70,000 attendees. Visit Winston-Salem estimated its economic impact in tourism at $7.5 million. The N.C. Black Repertory Company, which produces the festival, estimates its impact at $11 million, calculating in things like ticket sales and production.

Black Repertory Company Interim Executive Director Nigel Alston said with the festival more than a year out, there hasn’t been contact with potential theatre companies or patrons yet.

“We’ve talked it about it,” said Alston about HB 2. ”We’re aware of what the concerns are. We’re not sure what, if any, impact there will be.”

Visit Winston-Salem President Richard Geiger said there is concern over if the attendees, performers and celebrities the festival attracts will join the boycott.

“We’re obviously concerned and will monitor that.” said Geiger.

He said there has already been some signs of the boycott locally. He said two small groups have canceled their hotel stay, one of which was connected with the furniture market. He said Winston-Salem usually has about 6,000 hotel rooms checked out for the market and this year it was about 5,200.

Geiger said cycling and Frisbee events happening this year are considering not returning to Winston-Salem in 2017 because of HB 2.  He’s had emails from individuals canceling their travel plans to Winston-Salem.

Geiger said Visit Winston-Salem is working to quantify the overall impact of the boycott, which is challenging since some may quietly boycott or the city may be affected by a cancelation elsewhere, like hotel reservations that were canceled by those planning to attend the Springsteen concert.

“How many were thinking about coming to somewhere in North Carolina, to Winston-Salem, and chose not to come that we don’t even know about?” said Geiger.

Mayor Allen Joines said he, too, has concerns on the impact the boycott will have on the city. The city has started $17 million in upgrades to the Benton Convention Center in hopes more organizations will choose to hold events there. He also said it could affect the city’s ability to get businesses since many have denounced the law and are considering it when planning where to locate and expand.

Joines said he hopes the law is repealed or amended soon, but that the city will not be punished for the actions of the General Assembly.

“Winston-Salem is a very diverse city that embraces diversity,” said Joines. ”Don’t judge us on a statewide bill that was passed.”

HB 2 was passed in late March during a special one-day session of the General Assembly and prevents local ordinances from going further than state law on discrimination, ensuring there are no local or state protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals. It also eliminates suing for employment discrimination under state law and says that individuals must use the restroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate at public facilities, which many consider discriminatory against transgender individuals whose gender may not match their birth certificate.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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