When Anthony Niedwiecki and his partner Waymon Hudson arrived at Ft. Lauderdale airport baggage claim on flight from Chicago just past midnight, the weary travelers were only interested in getting their bags and getting home.
Until, that is, they heard something over the PA system that shocked them. According to Niedwiecki and Hudson, a Biblical passage condemning homosexuality was read — at least twice — over the public address intercom system in the baggage claim area.
The Old Testament passage, oft-cited by anti-gay advocates, is Leviticus 20:13 which is usually translated as “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death.”
The couple reported the incident to airport authorities, who initially simply “apologized for the inconvenience.” However, as the story has grown, Broward County officials have taken a stronger stance.
The Broward County administrator vowed to fire any county employees who may have been involved, while Broward County Mayor Josephus Eggelletion Jr. called the reading of the passage “inappropriate” and went on to note that “we have a very large gay population.”
After an investigation, county officials discovered that the person responsible was actually a Skycap working for an independent company at the airport, not a Broward County employee.
The man they suspected, Jethro Monestime, apparently confessed, saying he’d done it as a prank, and hadn’t meant to cause offense. Monestime had downloaded some Bible verses onto his phone and played them over the PA system “because he was bored,” according to Broward County Public Information Officer Greg Meyer.
Monestime’s employer, Superior Air Services, has fired Monestime following an internal investigation. The company has also issued an apology to Niedwiecki and Hudson, as well as the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and airport officials.
GAY-FRIENDLY FT. LAUDERDALE
But despite this rather ugly incident, the Ft. Lauderdale and Broward County area largely remains a welcoming destination for gay travelers. Indeed, the Ft. Lauderdale area has a strong, and growing, reputation among GLBT travelers as a gay-friendly destination. It has been cited as a top gay destination by publications as diverse as Gay.com and the Travel Industry Association. In fact, last year, 950,000 GLBT travelers visited the area, according to the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association.
While this may have been less than 10% of the 10.35 million visitors to the area (according to the Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitor’s Bureau), GLBT visitors contributed almost 15% of the $8.76 billion in travel-related revenues the area received.
And official support for the GLBT community is strong: the Convention and Visitors Bureau spends about $350,000 yearly in cooperation with local businesses to target gay travelers. And with a recent Community Marketing survey showing Ft. Lauderdale moving ahead of traditional Florida gay hotspots like Miami and Key West in terms of interest from gay travelers, the area looks poised to welcome even more GLBT visitors.
But where exactly are they staying, shopping, visiting, and having fun? Quite a number of places, as it turns out…
One gay hotspot in the area is Wilton Manors, a suburb of Ft. Lauderdale about 5 minutes north of the city. This area is rapidly developing into a heavily gay enclave, with gay-oriented restaurants, bars, and shops springing up. Indeed, some already refer to it as Fort Lauderdale’s “Gay City.” Closer to Fort Lauderdale, there is also Sebastian Beach, with a number of gay-friendly accommodations nearby. These are just some of the gay-friendly hotels in the area…
Starwood St. Regis
1 North Fort Lauderdale Boulevard
Starwood’s new St Regis hotel and resort has 183 guest rooms, including eight oceanfront rooms and 20 intracoastal suites. They offer their St. Regis Butler Service to cater to your every whim during your stay. Also on site is the St. Regis Spa, the golfing grounds, a fitness facility, business center, and concierge service.
1217 SE 1st Avenue
The resort is built based on 1930s architecture and is within walking distance of Wilton Manors, Wilton Drive, and the Northeast Quadrant, which is popular for its diverse gay bars. The resort is clothing-optional, and there’s a swimming pool and whirlpool as well. As with most clothing-optional men’s resorts, Pineapple Point is probably not a good choice for the prudish. Rates are $225 to $289 for a deluxe room, $225 to $289 for a bungalow, $279 to $369 for a 1-bedroom suite, $399 to $525 for a 2-bedroom suite, and $449 to $559 for a 1-bedroom villa with a private rooftop sun deck.
La Casa del Mar
3003 Granada Street
This gay- and lesbian-friendly guest house is about half a block from Fort Lauderdale Beach. Breakfast is served outdoors daily, and there is a complimentary poolside cocktail party every evening, plus optional massage services and Wi-Fi in all 15 rooms. Rates range from a Queen bed starting at $95 in the low season to a deluxe room with a kitchenette at $240 in the high season.
Coconut Cove Guest House
3012 Granada Street
954-523-3226 or 888-414-3226
The Coconut Cove Guest House is located close to Sebastian Beach. Located in the Las Olas beach area, the Guest House is also 1/2 block away from water taxis on the inter-island waterways. Coconut Grove was built in the South Floridian architectural style, Key West-influenced plantation-style buildings. There’s Wi-Fi throughout the resort, as well as efficiency or full kitchens, full bathrooms, and a video library. There is also a daily wine social, a heated pool and 28-man spa with a clothing-optional sun deck. Rooms start at $99 for a standard queen guest room, and $229 for a penthouse.
543 North Birch Road
954-563-6819 or 800-445-7036
The Worthington Guesthouse is a clothing-optional gay men’s resort located in an area dubbed “The Island,” close to gay nightlife, dining, and shopping. Rooms range from $99 to $199 a night, but you can get a discount of 5% if you mention the Purple Roof Discount. The Guesthouse is two blocks from the beach. There’s a 24-hour pool and Jacuzzi, a private courtyard, and the guesthouse provides a day pass discount to major fitness centers. The rooms provide internet access, and a guest laundry is available for use.
552 North Birth Road
954-564-9601 or 800-533-4744
The Elysium Resort, touted as Fort Lauderdale’s largest gay men’s resort, contains spacious suites and studios. The resort is close to popular sightseeing areas, like the Fort Lauderdale’s Museum of Art, the Arts and Science District, and the downtown River Walk. It’s also close to the local gay beach and Fort Lauderdale’s “Gay City,” Wilton Manors. Rooms go for anywhere from $99 to $134 for a standard guest room, $119 to $154 for a studio, $139 to $174 for a junior suite, and $149 to $214 for a regular suite. Elysium has a summer special: stay three nights, get the fourth night free, from June 1 to September 30. This doesn’t include Fridays, Saturdays, and holidays. The Resort provides an extensive video library, Wi-Fi, and BBQ grilling stations. There’s also a private rooftop sundeck and clothing-optional heated pools. The resort is also pet-friendly.
For more information and discounts on gay-friendly accommodations, visit https://www.purpleroofs.com.
Food Amongst the Flowers
2345 Wilton Drive
954-563-7752 or 866-985-2345
$16-45 per person
Food Amongst the Flowers has the requisite floral motifs and is an upscale option. The piano bar straddles the line between kitschy and classy, but it can be a nice gathering place for pre-dinner drinks as well. Overall, it’s one of the better gay date spots in the area.
1410 E. Las Olas Boulevard
$7-12 per person
This 24-hour diner offers an alternative to standard greasy-spoon diner fare. And it’s a top spot for a Ft. Lauderdale gay brunch experience, so expect a line on weekend mornings.
2389 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
$15-30 per person
The hippest, gayest Thai restaurant in the area also features a high-quality sushi bar, and lush décor. Hugely popular, reservations are a must, even during the week.
Hi Life Cafe
3000 N. Federal Highway
$20-40 per person
With a heavily-gay clientele and a chef (Carlos Fernandez) who appeared on the most recent season of Bravo’s “Top Chef,” the Hi Life Cafe combines good food and good folks in a rather romantic atmosphere. Closed Mondays.
2232 Wilton Drive
Located in Wilton Manors, this club is more or less your standard gay dance club, with nightly drink specials and karaoke on Mondays and Tuesdays. But as the neighbor of Georgie’s Alibi (see below) it can be a good choice for dancing once you’ve gotten your drink on at the more relaxed Georgie’s.
1951 NW 9th Avenue
If you’re a fan of bears and/or leather, you should probably check out Steel and its sister club, Jackhammer. Once separate, they’ve recently come together in Steel’s large space. Basically, it’s is a multi-level dance club with various events nightly, like Noche Latina on Fridays or Trannie Palace (with drag shows) on Tuesdays.
2266 Wilton Drive
Gay-owned and operated, this is one of the city’s longest-running and yet still popular gay bars. Georgie’s Alibi is a fairly standard gay bar in some respects, although it’s perhaps a bit more sports-oriented than some. Additionally, Georgie’s Alibi offers pretty decent food and free Wi-Fi, making it popular during the day as well as at night.
2440 Wilton Drive
And here’s something for the ladies. While lesbians make up a much smaller proportion of the area’s GLBT travelers than some other destinations, the New Moon bar caters to them with wine specials, “Softball Sundays” and karaoke on Thursdays.
For more help on planning your trip, check out the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Rainbow Trip Planner at https://sunny.org/rainbow
By New Media Manager Matt Calcara for PeterGreenberg.com.
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