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Currituck tourism businesses air concerns about HB2 impact

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Currituck Chamber 0010

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By WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff Writer

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

CURRITUCK – The head of Currituck County's Chamber of Commerce said there is concern among the county's lodging and tourism business community that House Bill 2 could affect business in 2017. 

Chamber President Josh Bass said he and his staff won’t know for sure until next fall, after data on business activity is analyzed, how serious the fallout from the so-called “bathroom bill” may be.

"I would say for the beach, that is a big question mark," Bass said. "I am not saying it's awful. I'm saying we don't know what the impact is going to be."

Bass declined to disclosed specific businesses that indicated concerns about the law. He also cited the difficulty of providing an immediate and more specific impact of HB 2, because the masses of regular vacationers book in the springtime for their summertime spaces and their deposits were in place by the time HB2 became law.

Bass confirmed, however, that regular vacationers to Currituck have registered their concerns about the law. “Yes, that is correct.” He said this is based on calls to those tourism and vacation-oriented businesses, with the businesses relaying back to him what was being said.

“Now, how big that is, I think, we don't know yet,” he said of the impact due to the bookings occurring a year out.

Bass also said he was unsure whether vacationers choosing to stay away may come come back to Currituck even if HB2 is repealed. “Charlotte and Raleigh are going to see those immediate impacts,” he said of the two being convention-oriented metro destinations.

Generally, Bass said the calls flowing into tourism and vacation-related businesses in Currituck have been along the lines of, "We understand you have nothing to do with this. It's not you individually, but as a protest, I'm just not going to come to your state."

The General Assembly approved and then-Gov. Pat McCrory signed House Bill 2 in late March. HB 2 prohibits transgender people from using public restrooms corresponding with their gender preference. The law also removes some legal protections for the LGBT community.

Politically conservative state lawmakers have argued such legislation was needed in response to a new Charlotte non-discrimination ordinance they believed was too overreaching and for safety from sexual predators.

The bill, after becoming law, quickly prompted an outcry from political liberals, much of the public and the lesbian, gay, transgender and bi-sexual community.

The bill also caused corporations to either pull out of or hold off further investment in North Carolina, prompted rock stars Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr to cancel concerts in North Carolina and prompted the Atlantic Coast Conference to shift the ACC football championship game away from Charlotte. 

Charlotte officials last month revoked their municipal ordinance, but the majority of legislators, in a special session, declined to revoke HB2.

Bass said that in Currituck, some of the tourism and vacation-oriented business have told him they have even been telling concerned vacationers over the phone they agree with their concerns but, "We're independent businesses," "We're small" and, "By you not coming, it really hurts us."

While the Chamber and Bass have to refrain from political stances, he said he does believe the question being raised in the midst of the HB2 situation is, "Do we continue down a certain political path and for how long? And how long is it in the national media – and international media?"

“I think that all plays into it,” he said.

Additionally, Bass is concerned because officials in neighboring Virginia like to proclaim to the world the commonwealth is a haven for free enterprise. Bass said he frequently goes across the state line into the Hampton Roads area for business and civic meetings and also to seek out prospective investors.

He said anytime when he attends business and civic gatherings in Hampton Roads, he is approached and questioned about HB2 along the lines of, "What in the world is going on?" and "Are you all going to repeal it?"

He also said he is told, "Your political climate is strange."


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