Charlotte was a record setting city, so it would be hard to argue that the Annual Meeting just held there was anything other than successful. But I wanted to take a minute to talk about the venue, since more than a few people had issues with it. Now that I’ve attended four annual meetings, I believe I have enough information to compare venues.
Let’s start with the good:
- Everything in Charlotte was close. I felt like I hardly had to do any walking, and certainly no driving. In Louisville, we had a lot of room, but everything was spread out. You had to drive between downtown and the convention center to go between events.
- The food in Charlotte was great. I didn’t eat at any place I thought sucked.
- The people of Charlotte were great to us.
- It was obviously close to a lot of NRA members, because it set a record.
- It was probably the safest downtown we’ve had a convention in since I’ve attended them. The Charlotte Police and County Sheriff did a very good job keeping up patrols.
Now the bad:
- North Carolina’s carry laws suck. Technically, I’m not even sure I could carry up to my hotel room, because the hotels all have bars in them, and you can purchase and consume alcohol anywhere in the hotel. I did not carry at any point in Charlotte, and had to leave my pistol in a broken hotel room safe. No other venue has also been as in your face with us that carry is prohibited. Technically it was in St. Louis too, but St. Louis folks were discreet about it.
- The Time-Warner Arena sucks as a venue. Not only could we not have an Annual Banquet, but they wanded down our members, and I heard a story from a reader that they wouldn’t let him in because his camera was “too professional looking.” We rented this venue for a private event. As far as I’m concerned, Time-Warner can take their venue policies and shove them up their ass when we’re the ones forking over our member dollars to use it. As far as I’m concerned, wanding down and disrespecting members does not make us feel welcome in the city.
- The city is expensive. When I pay 12 dollars for a drink, I start to feel like I’m in New York City. Beer was cheap in Charlotte, roughly comparable to Philly, but Philly is still a cheaper city to drink in, and that’s sad. Food was expensive too, but I’m willing to shell out for good food, and I had nothing bad in Charlotte.
- There was police presence in weird areas. Now it’s possible the convention center has a make work project for cops, in that you’re required to hire police officers for events, but a board member gave us some tickets to a cigar and brandy reception which had several Charlotte police officers patrolling. There was also two officers stationed just outside the Firearms Law Seminar, obviously based on rumors Dave Hardy was going to ride in on a Carthaginian War Elephant. Are they worried we’re going to get drunk and shoot up the place? Get rowdy? Maybe back in the old days of NRA you’d have to worry about that (things were more exciting then), but not now. I like a beefed up police presence, especially if you’re going to disarm me. Charlotte felt very safe because the CPD had a heavy presence on the street, but I found their presence at private events odd. I like feeling safe, not feeling watched.
- The media was hostile, and some of the local businesses weren’t all that friendly. I heard one restaurant chime to an NRA staffer “You’re with NRA? You know you can’t carry a gun in here right?” The Charlotte Observer also made is feel so welcome when they asked us not to shoot them. We’re used to papers making policy arguments against us during the Convention, but most other cities media and businesses at least make it clear our presence (and money) is welcome in their city.
Overall, I am very happy NRA set a record in the city, but I am not a fan of going back until the State of North Carolina fixes the problems with their carry laws, and the various Charlotte authorities that are responsible for getting big conventions make sure their businesses and media understand the kind of business we’re bringing to the table. We know we have to follow the law, but don’t be dicks about it. Don’t insult us, do various things to disrespect members, and then expect us to come back with a smile. Phoenix was a much more welcoming city. Louisville was a much more welcoming city. St. Louis was as well.
Next year we’ll be in Pittsburgh, another city that will want our money. There won’t be any problems with Pennsylvania’s carry laws, which are among the best in the nation, but lets hope their businesses and media make us feel more welcome than Charlotte’s did.
31 Responses to “Charlotte: The Good and the Bad”
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