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Safety on minds of Utah club owners after Colorado shooting

Posted at 5:07 PM, Nov 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-21 19:20:39-05

DRAPER, Utah — In recent years, Jake Sperry has become confident enough with his sexuality to begin going to the downtown Salt Lake City gay bars where he can be around others who identify as LGBTQ+ and those that support them.

WATCH: LDS officials condemn nightclub shooting, say suspect was not active in church

"I prefer to go there because I know I can be my true self and I'm most comfortable there no matter how I talk act, what I wear, how I dance. After news like this I feel less and less safe going out," Sperry said.

The Draper resident's mind has been on the five killed and 25 injured following a shooting spree inside a Colorado Springs nightclub over the weekend. The suspect, Anderson Lee Aldrich, faces murder and hate crime charges.

"Everyone has the mentality of, 'Oh, it's not going to be me;' but in times like these, we don't know what's going to happen," Sperry said. 

Local Utah bar owners echo the sentiment shared by Sperry.

"It seems as if the bar violence is increasing on a targeted basis, so opening brand new on State Street in Salt Lake City, Utah is a little concerning," said Micheal Repp, owner of new Club Verse in Salt Lake City. 

This weekend's shooting has prompted club owners like Repp to reevaluate safety, even implementing top secret security measures he wouldn't describe on camera.

"We have the magnetometers coming in a 33-zone cross checker, so literally every five inches of your body is diagonally checked for a weapon," he explained.

Repp says he recognizes being a bar owner carries a great responsibility and he prides himself in knowing that he and his team are trained and able to protect their customers.

"When you sign that paper, you're assuming responsibility of thousands of people's lives," said Repp. "I know myself and my staff are willing to lay down their lives to protect a patron's life."

Sperry says although the attacks are scary, he appreciates what club owners like Repp are doing and he is not going to let what happened in Colorado stop him from living his life. Going forward he says himself and others should proceed with caution.

"Whether it's a little thing of pepper spray in your pocket or being aware of who's surrounding you at all times, or just going with people you feel safe with." Sperry said.

As far as professional law enforcement, the Salt Lake City Police Department would not get into specific safety measures, but said they "have spoken with and continue to meet regularly with the LGBTQIA+ community to help ensure their safety."