BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com
Activists plan to protest a Grammy-winning DJ's Sunday night dance party at the Mansion nightclub on South Beach, which they say competes for gay tourist dollars with a Winter Party Festival fundraiser.
``We just want to make sure the public is aware, and the patrons who show up understand, this is not a sanctioned event,'' said protest organizer Rick Siclari, executive director of Care Resource, South Florida's largest HIV/AIDS service agency.
Siclari is angry at celebrity DJ Peter Rauhofer and Opium Group, which owns Mansion, for holding dance parties in 2008 and 2009 that competed with Care Resource's annual White Party festival during Thanksgiving weekend.
Last year, only about 100 people came to White Party's Sunday night fundraiser, costing the agency about $20,000, Siclari said.
``We took a low-key approach, which was a mistake,'' said Siclari, who decided to organize a protest of Rauhofer's latest Miami Beach dance event, which will be held Sunday night opposite a Winter Party Festival fundraiser by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Winter Party is a six-day annual festival that attracts 10,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to South Beach. Two-thirds of Winter Party profits are distributed by the Dade Community Foundation to gay nonprofit agencies throughout South Florida.
``If good people stand by and let these things happen, it's really our fault too,'' said co-organizer Laurence Moser, who has printed T-shirts, fliers and posters to promote the protest.
He hopes about 70 people will show up at 10 p.m. Sunday at Washington Avenue and 12th Street near Mansion.
``We're going to be pretty much in their face. We're going to be engaging people in line,'' Moser said.
Vanessa Menkes, Opium Group's vice president of communications, explained her company's position in an e-mail to The Miami Herald:
``The Opium Group has a long-standing commitment to providing its venues for dozens of charitable events each year and was approached by Winter Party only after it had entered into a contract with Peter Rauhofer for this Sunday night.
``As many have correctly commented, the Winter Party has evolved from a single event to a weekend with a multitude of events competing for charity and tourist dollars. Just as they choose which event they would like to attend at one of Miami Beach's 20 or so venues Sunday night, we believe visitors also make a choice to attend Winter Party or donate directly to the HIV/AIDS charity of their choice. We sincerely hope that the mission of Winter Party is realized more than ever this weekend and, as previously publicly stated, we are happy to offer them one of our venues free of charge on an available Sunday on a future date.''
The national task force will not participate in the protest, said Russell Roybal, its deputy executive director of external relations.
``We are concentrating on our own event that Sunday,'' Roybal said. ``We support folks planning to organize or do whatever they want to do. We teach organizing, right?''
Rauhofer declined to comment, except for a short message sent to The Miami Herald via Facebook: ``Sorry, I will be unable to attend this protest due to a prior engagement. Maybe next time.''
Winter Party Orbit dance photos by MRNY