A Change in Plans for Hamburger Mary’s KC on Pride Weekend

I don’t often find myself at a loss for words. But in mid-March, I faced a situation that stunned me completely. What I’m talking about is the news that I was given in March regarding Kansas City’s Gay Pride celebrations, which will be the weekend of May 31.
Please understand that in writing this, I am not trying to stir up controversy or point fingers at any individuals. In fact, I don’t think there is any one person who can be blamed. Nor is it my style to air out dirty laundry in public. Nonetheless, because I’ve been asked by so many people to set the record straight publicly, I feel it’s finally necessary to do so.
Last year, as many of you know, Hamburger Mary’s KC hosted its own Pride street event. Although it wasn’t a massive event, it was successful in many ways. All of our expenses were paid in full by the end of the event. We had a great crowd all weekend long. And those who came seemed to enjoy themselves.
The reasons for our hosting a competing event to those being hosted by the ShowMe Pride organization are not important to explain here. The bottom line is that Hamburger Mary’s KC felt that the city needed an alternative to what was being offered. Although Hamburger Mary’s footed the bill for and managed the entire event, we appreciated the other bars lending their support by providing talent, helping us promote the event, and offering free entry to their bars to customers who had an age-check bracelet from the event. Last year’s Pride Street Festival was the bars’ first collaborative effort.
In the fall of 2012, the bar collective moved forward with plans for our own Pride event for this coming June. The rough idea was to collaboratively finance, support and staff the event, to relocate the event to Westport Road, and to make sure that, no matter what, we finished in the black financially. We also decided to make the LIKEME Lighthouse a financial beneficiary of
the event.

But plans sometimes change due to evolving circumstances, and after a number of phone calls back and forth, a decision was made in January to move the event back to Baltimore Avenue. That change was publicized in February’s issue of Camp Magazine. But in making the move, some of us in the bar collective did not communicate as effectively as we should have, and this is likely where our undoing lies. Nor did we communicate much after that. We all just pressed forward with business.
From January through mid-March, I worked on the event, securing vendor contracts and corporate sponsorship, planning performances, all the typical work of putting together a larger event. By that time I had nearly the entire event planned out and paid for by corporate sponsorship. In mid-March, I emailed the other bars that I would be meeting with a final sponsor and that I would send them the final budget the following week. In that sponsor meeting, we shook hands on a deal that would have placed the entire event in the black financially through corporate sponsorship alone.
Then I received an email informing me that a number of the other bars had decided to go in a different direction entirely. In fact, they had chosen to work with the main Kansas City Pride organization, now called Kansas City Diversity Coalition. I was stunned. I couldn’t believe the news.
Because of that change, the event as it was planned and funded on Baltimore Street could not go forward. And that meant the LIKEME Lighthouse community center would not benefit from this planned event. Many people tried to encourage Hamburger Mary’s to move forward despite the circumstances. But the corporate sponsors that I had signed deals with did so because the bars were united in our cause. They would not sponsor a Mary’s-only event.
Hamburger Mary’s is about building our community. Since opening three years ago, we’ve raised upwards of a million dollars for local charities through our three weekly charity bingo events. In addition, we’ve hosted hundreds of other charity events. We’ve donated annually to AIDS Service Foundation, the Good Samaritan Project, and countless other worthy organizations that support our community. We joined the Mid-America Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce because they support the same principles that we do (congrats, MAGLCC, by the way, on your one-year anniversary).
If we were to do a street event this year in competition with the other bars’ plans, that would not unite the community. It would risk our relationship with the other bars, something we have chosen not to do. Although we still don’t know the reasoning behind the other bars’ change of plans, we respect their decision and wish them well.
In lieu of the street event — and because we still want to raise money for the LIKEME Lighthouse — Hamburger Mary’s KC has planned a weekend full of events that will take advantage of every square inch of our property. We will be using our Main Dining Room, Glam Bar, Big Top Deck, Big Bottom Patio, and even our parking lots. Most of the events will be fundraisers for the cause. We hope the LGBT community of Kansas City will look at what we have scheduled and make plans to join us and support our community center, the LIKEME Lighthouse.
In the end I want the best for the Pride event on Westport Road. However, I will confess that I’m nervous for Kansas City, given that at this writing not much has been communicated publicly about what the plans are for the weekend.
We hope they have plans that will wow all of us. Nonetheless, I must focus on what we will be doing to support the LIKEME Lighthouse. And although Mary’s events will not be on the street this year, my sincere hope is that the Kansas City community will turn out in droves to show their support as well.
Jeff Edmondson is general manager at Hamburger Mary’s, 101 Southwest Blvd., Kansas City, Mo.

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