Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018

Gay Florida businesses on the mend after Irma



A worker stands next to a fallen tree at the Grand Resort and Spa in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Photo: Courtesy Grand Resort and Spa
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Gay beachfront businesses in Fort Lauderdale, Florida appear to have dodged a bullet. Although LGBT businesses in Key West, which took a direct hit from Hurricane Irma, expectedly fared worse, the damage was not as severe as it was following Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

Fort Lauderdale is second only to Palm Springs for its abundance of gay resorts. Most of the LGBT hotels are just steps away from the ocean and were included in a mandatory evacuation order. The Florida Keys were also under an evacuation order but thousands stayed behind anyway, including a hearty group that holed up through the storm in a gay hotel.

The good news for Fort Lauderdale is that Irma veered to Florida's west coast. The city got hit hard but businesses there are already on the mend and optimistic about opening soon.

The Grand Resort and Spa, just two blocks from Fort Lauderdale Beach, reported only minimal damage and employees were on the job Monday cleaning up. Photos posted to the resort's Facebook page showed most of the property's lush vegetation intact. But one of the two palm trees in front of the property appeared to have had all of its fronds blown off. The resort said it expected to have the property fully cleaned up by the end of this week and would announce later when it would reopen.

The Grand's neighbor and largest gay resort in Fort Lauderdale, the Worthington Resorts, also reported minimal damage. The resort's Facebook page noted on Monday that someone who lives in a residential tower overlooking the property had reported that although fencing and trees were damaged, there appeared to be no broken windows or structural damage.

"We can repair the resort and plant new trees," Worthington's owner Jim Durham wrote. "We have been here before with Hurricane Wilma. God Bless, thank you for all your thoughts and prayers it apparently worked."

In Key West, a small group of people took shelter in the New Orleans House, which is owned by Joey Schroeder, who also owns the adjacent Bourbon Street Pub. Through a Facebook post, he relayed that Garden Bar, just behind the main pub, which includes a pool, is "unrecognizable" and that no trees on the property were left standing.

The post noted that Schroeder saw numerous trees on top of cars and homes throughout the island but that the flooding was not as bad as Hurricane Wilma. That 2005 storm flooded an estimated 60 percent of the island. Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers told CNN that Wilma also caused more structural damage on the Keys than Irma.

Schroeder noted that the damage was most noticeable in the destruction of the island's foliage: "All trees in Bayview park are down. All trees have been stripped of their leaves." The business owner continued, "It was like a huge weed whacker hit the island. All signs, canopies, etc. have been ripped down."

Schroeder added that it will be "awhile before Key West is back up and running."

Key West's legendary Island House, which often tops lists as being among the best gay resorts in the world, reported Monday that it suffered significant but "fixable" damage.

The resort posted on its Facebook page, "There are several big trees down, including the big gumbo limbo and rubber tree next door to the resort. Fortunately, they didn't fall on anything.

"Right now there is no water, electricity, or cellphone service in Key West. Those will be fixed in the coming days," the post read. Also the airport needs to reopen as well as Route 1 to the mainland.

The resort said it was unsure when it would reopen.

"That depends on when the authorities open the roads and the airport," the post read. "And how soon we can do the cleanup and repairs needed at the Island House. Hopefully, that will be by early next week."

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