Memorial Day is nearly upon us and that means thoughts go to vacations and for many that means the beach. For me, the beach of choice is Rehoboth Beach, Del. As a homeowner there for many years it also means traffic congestion, parking woes and dealing with the day-trippers who swarm the place. Depending on your point of view this summer season portends to be worse than ever because of a good economy, new stores and outlets on Route 1 and parking problems in town; or better than ever because of some of the same things.
I look forward to another great summer. As a gay man who has been going to Rehoboth for more than 30 years, it’s wonderful the town has gained a well-earned reputation for being LGBT friendly. There are many gay-owned and operated restaurants and businesses and every business is gay friendly. You can walk down the street holding hands with your partner and generally feel really comfortable doing it.
There were some reports last year about young men being harassed and arrested on the beach because they were gay. Turns out these young men were breaking the law. You can’t drink alcohol on the beach and you can’t urinate in the dunes and then claim you were only called out for it because you are gay. It will be important for Rehoboth to continue to attract a younger crowd and it makes the scene on the beach and in the bars all the better for old codgers like me. But laws are laws and they have to be obeyed.
The truth is because of all the work of CAMP Rehoboth, the gay and lesbian community center, Rehoboth has come a long way over the past 30 years. The center of gay life in Rehoboth is Baltimore Avenue. The venerable Blue Moon Restaurant and Bar and Aqua Grill with its hot bar staff and reasonably priced food host hundreds of happy beach goers every night. Eat at Hobos on one end of Baltimore Avenue or at Eden or Jam at the other end, with Lori’s Café in the CAMP courtyard in the middle and you know you are dining at an LGBT-owned restaurant. Buy some incredible jewelry or home furnishings at Elegant Slumming and you shopped at a gay-owned business. Feel totally comfortable at Café Azafran with the wonderful chanteuse Holly Lane serving you at the bar, or the much anticipated new restaurant owned by the Blue Moon that will replace the Seafood Shack. I don’t know what it will be named but some suggestions have been “The Other Moon,” “The Half Moon,” or the “Lesser Moon.” Whatever the name it can’t help but be good with Blue Moon Chef Lion Gardner overseeing the menu.
Other gay-owned and operated businesses on Rehoboth Avenue include the fun Gidgets’s Gadgets and the always busy and fun Purple Parrot with its great breakfast, lunch and dinner menu and Biergarten. The food and staff are great and the prices are even better.
Now if the town Commission could get its act together all could be fine. First they tried to ban the use of swimming pools by summer renters and they are still banning some pools in new houses. There are continuous fights over the size and scope of a house you can build. The issue is consistency and that is what has been lacking in the decision-making process. In January they dealt with a projected $2 million budget shortfall for the new City Hall. A project many considered unnecessary in the first place. They worked this out through creative accounting, not always the best way to do things.
According to City Manager Sharon Lynn, “The project will not contain a number of additional items originally planned, including new flooring for the city’s convention center and equipment for the city’s information technology department, which totaled $999,000.” Mayor Sam Cooper admitted, We’re not saving money, but we’re taking it out of the borrowing and putting into being funded with the city’s operating budget over the next two years.” So the question is whether in the long run property taxes will go up or every fee under the sun will be raised.
Despite the Commission’s problems, all governments have them, Rehoboth Beach is still a best bet for a fantastic summer vacation or a permanent home. It’s an East Coast destination no one should miss.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.