Charlotte’s largest hotel is making sure patrons know it is LGBT-friendly, following North Carolina’s controversial new law limiting LGBT legal protections.
The Westin uptown is planning to add an “any gender” bathroom on its second floor, near the FedEx office. It’s doing so “for the comfort and peace of mind of our guests who may now find using male/female specific restrooms uneasy or unsettling,” said Ross Bruce, the hotel’s director of revenue management.
Until the new bathroom is ready, the Westin has changed the signage on one of its existing bathrooms to designate it open to all genders.
The hotel has also hung an “Always Welcome” banner on the corner of College and Stonewall streets. That’s part of a larger inclusion campaign launched this week by civic and business leaders trying to tout the city as a welcoming place.
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“We are very proud of our long-public commitment to the LGBT community, and strive to be the industry benchmark for diversity and inclusion where all associates, guests, customers, partners and community constituents are invited, embraced, valued and respected,” Bruce wrote in a letter Tuesday to Janice Covington Allison, a local transgender woman and Democratic Party activist.
Earlier this week, Allison was interviewed by WFAE, an Observer news partner, about chronicling where she can and cannot use the restroom since the passage of House Bill 2.
The architects of HB2 said they were responding to a provision in Charlotte’s expanded nondiscrimination ordinance that would allow transgender individuals to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender with which they identify. Gov. Pat McCrory issued an executive order this week changing parts of HB2, but the bathroom provision remains unaltered.
Two days after HB2 passed in March, Allison launched www.justaskandtell.com to keep track of the establishments that allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice. She has over 50 businesses listed, including Brixx and Midwood Smokehouse.
“I’m getting right now probably three to four names a day. I’m not even soliciting. They’re just reaching out to me,” like the Westin did, Allison said.
The 700-room Westin is the city’s largest hotels, and it opened in 2003 with Charlotte investing about $16 million, or about 10 percent of the project’s cost.
The hotel could face millions in lost revenue if more conventions pull out of Charlotte because of the new law. Already, the hotel’s seen cancellations because of the city and state leaders that have banned government-funded travel to North Carolina, Bruce said.
At least 13 conventions and events won’t be coming to Charlotte because of concerns over HB2, the Charlotte Regional Visitor Authority has said. Another 29 more are on a “hesitant/concerned list.”
“At this point, it’s about figuring out a way to make everyone realizes that HB2 was a direct action on a city ordinance and that Charlotte is a welcoming city, and we want people here,” Bruce said.