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Phillip Jones speaks to leaders of the gay community at the Winspear this morning (photo by Armando Gonzales)

Journos don’t like to get up early, but this morning I slapped on a tie and trekked over to the Winspear Opera House for an 8 a.m. “LGBT Leadership Breakfast” with about 40 others from the community. The event, hosted by Dallas’ Conventions and Visitors Bureau, sought to reach out and enlist the local gay community in pressing for more business in Big D.

Ever since the opening the new Arts District,  Dallas as a city has been big on promoting itself as a world-class destination, but apparently that’s harder than we thought — especially in light of something that happened in another city.

“There are still challenges — the Rainbow Lounge incident did not help us, it hurt us a lot,” said Chris Heinbaugh, the gay chief of staff for Mayor Tom Leppert, noting that several conventions that had been booked canceled as a result of the raid and its aftermath.

CVB chief Phillip Jones echoed that observation (often, he said, people from out of town assume Dallas-Fort Worth is one big city), but also touted the 32 LGBT conventions that had been here in the past few years, generating $37 million in economic impact. CeCe Cox, one of the attendees, also brought up the Creating Change conference that starts next week, and is the largest of its kind yet.

Other factors are harder to control than the response to the Rainbow Lounge, such as the GALA Choruses using the excuse “Dallas is too hot in the summer” for not bringing their event here, and going instead to Denver. And Heinbaugh probably got the best line of the morning when he mentioned that The Advocate had recently listed the top 20 gay cities, and Dallas wasn’t on the list… but Austin was.

“Austin? Really?! It’s a great city,” he said, “but we’re WAY gayer than them.”

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