Jenny Badman and Patrick Properties team up with AFFA for a grand reopening 

A Coming Out Party

When Fish Restaurant reopened in September after months of extensive renovations, they invited a fitting crowd for their coming out party: members of the local gay community.

Charles and Celeste Patrick, owners of Patrick Properties (which includes Fish, Lowndes Grove, the American Theater, and the William Aiken House), planned to host a soft launch event before reopening to the public, both to get their feet wet and introduce the new look to a hand-picked crowd. When they decided to make the event a fund-raiser, Jenny Badman, marketing and PR manager of Patrick Properties, suggested donating to the Alliance for Full Acceptance (AFFA). It was a natural choice for the Patricks, who both privately and publicly are big supporters of the gay community.

"I thought of doing it as a fund-raiser for AFFA, because the gay community is really loyal to the food and beverage industry here in town, and kind of everywhere," Badman says. "And also, AFFA's mission is very in line with what Patrick Properties does, about keeping things fair and keeping things equal. So it just felt like a really good fit, and a really good opportunity to do something with a local nonprofit."

Badman also works on the AFFA Leadership Committee, so she was tuned in to the organization's recent financial struggles, similar to many nonprofits in these tight times. AFFA uses donations mainly to educate and spread awareness of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues.

"I think a lot of the nonprofits are taking a hit with the economic downturn," Badman says. "People just don't have that discretionary income to make the donations that they've always made."

Nearly 200 guests were invited to a free dinner at the refurbished King Street restaurant, and they were asked to donate to AFFA. The event raised nearly $6,500 and exposed many new people to the organization's mission.

"It was a great way to introduce AFFA and some in the gay community to other guests that we invited who otherwise didn't know a good deal about them," Badman says.

Fish's main benefit from the event, besides gaining exposure, was the valuable feedback they received from guests.

"We asked for feedback from everybody ... A group of gay folks were laughing, and we were like, we should just start marketing ourselves as like, when you open a restaurant, you should have a bunch of the gay community over, because you're always going to get really interesting feedback, really honest feedback."

As for whether or not it was a risky move to make the opening a gay-focused event, Badman doesn't think so.

"I hope I'm not being sort of Pollyanna about thinking like that, but I think that the food and beverage community in this town has a lot of gay folks in it, so I feel like the business itself is pretty tolerant of GLBT issues," Badman says. "Overall, I moved here from New Jersey five years ago, and I had my worries about what it was like to be here and out, but I really found Charleston as a whole to be a really welcoming community."

The event was a success, and Badman says that Patrick Properties will most likely partner with AFFA for future events.

The Gay Issue 2008

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