The owner of Pulse says she can’t bring herself to sell the nightclub she founded in memory of her brother.
Barbara Poma revealed the news during a conference outside the club while clutching her husband’s hand.
“This decision truly came just from my heart and my passion for Pulse, and everything it’s meant to me and my family for the last 12 years since its inception,” Poma said. “So I think the struggle was you know, letting it go, and it’s just something I could not come to grips with.”
As The Orlando Sentinel reports, Mayor Buddy Dyer’s staff planned to buy the club for $2.25 million to turn the space into a permanent memorial to honor the victims of the massacre that killed 49 people and wounded over a dozen more last June.
“I’m distressed by the decision,” says District 4 Commissioner Patty Sheehan, “but I support Barbara’s decision.”
Poma isn’t quite sure what she envisions for the site’s future. She’s been raising money for the non-profit onePULSE Foundation, but most of the funds raised in 2016 will be going to the National Compassion Fund, while 10 percent will aid in building a “permanent memorial at the existing site of Pulse nightclub.”
On November 14th, The City Council had been expected to vote on whether or not to purchase the building, but Dyer kept delaying the vote since several commissioners had balked at the price.
“She offered a price and I just, from my perspective, wasn’t willing to pay the price that she wanted,” Gray told the Sentinel.
“You never want to enter into a real-estate transaction while you insult the seller and I am deeply distressed by some of the things that were being said,” said Sheehan. “Barbara Poma is a victim in this, as well.”
Poma says the public debate about the proposed price “didn’t offend me.”
“Everyone’s entitled to their opinion and their feelings but, for me, it wasn’t about the real estate and the appraisal, it was about the emotion, what happened here.”
Poma’s decision was acknowledged in a statement by Heather Fagan, Dyer’s deputy chief of staff:
We understand that this was an incredibly difficult decision for the owners. We respect their decision and are hopeful the Pulse site continues to be a place of hope and healing that honors the victims.”
Dyer’s office says they’ll “continue to research and understand how other communities have approached the memorial process.”
Poma opened Pulse in 2004 to honor her brother John, who died of AIDS-related complications in 1991.
Terry DeCarlo, the executive director of the GLBT Center of Central Florida, helped Poma make her decision, encouraging her to “go with what’s in your heart.”
“I would not wish what this woman is going through on any person in the world,” DeCarlo says.
Right now, DeCarlo says it’s hard to know what the future of Pulse holds.
I’m sure, within the next few months, things will come out and [Poma], with input from others, people that were there and other organizations, will come up with a plan.”