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Saugatuck-Douglas is open and better than ever

Artsy Midwest resort area has something for everyone

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Saugatuck, gay news, Washington Blade
A scene from Laketown Beach near Saugatuck, Mich. (Photo courtesy Bill Malcolm)

The Midwest’s gay resort area, Saugatuck-Douglas, Mich., is open and better than ever. The sandy beaches, two gay resorts, sand dunes, and blueberries beckon the LGBTQ traveler. The Southwest Michigan area is easily accessible by car from many cities and flying into Grand Rapids is another option.

Safety is a priority in the area and COVID-19 protection plans are in place and include: employees wearing masks at bars, restaurants, and stores; restaurants have spaced out tables and are operating at reduced capacity; the number of campsites has been reduced at CampIt; reduced capacity and spread out bar area at the Dunes Resort; masks are required to enter grocery stores; and more. Check state websites for the latest travel restrictions before booking any trips.

The area features two great LGBTQ resorts. The Dunes Resort features many lodging options (motel, cabins, and more), a pool with bar (never a cover or admission fee), a great indoor bar, two dance floors, and more. It is the Midwest’s largest gay resort.

Weekly events include piano bar Monday, karaoke on Thursdays, go-go boys from Perfect 10 Men Fridays, and a T-dance (with barbeque) Sunday afternoons. The Dunes Divas also appear with shows on the Tea Deck weekend nights. There is something special going on every weekend including:
Aug. 13-16 White Party Weekend
Aug. 20-23 Furball Weekend
Aug. 27-30 End of Summer Blues

Book your stay or get more information at dunesresort.com. They also handle bookings for the Northern Lights condominiums across the street.

Value-oriented travelers will especially like the camping and other options like small cabins and a bunkhouse over at Camp It Resort, Saugatuck’s outdoor resort in Fennville just south of Saugatuck. They have a great pool scene, too. Upcoming events include:
Aug. 14-16 Wild West weekend
Aug. 21-23 Mardi Gras (complete with parade)—this is always a sell out
Aug. 28-30 Wine and dine weekend

D.C. DJ Steve Henderson spins the tunes by the pool. The resort has been going strong since 1982. I love that you can camp for just $20 a night on the weekends. It’s a friendly crowd and they even have a food truck (opening soon) for those that don’t like to cook.

Book your stay and get more information at campitresort.com or call 269-543-4435.

Make your first stop beautiful Oval Beach on Lake Michigan. One of the best shorelines around. However, they do charge $10 until 8 p.m. so save money and just go for the sunset. Other beaches (which are free) include the Laketown Beach and West Side County Park. My favorite is the Wau-Ke-Na Preserve, which features great hiking and a wonderful (and free beach) less affected by this year’s high Lake Michigan water levels.

Take a hike to the beach at Saugatuck Dunes State Park. You walk though a beech/maple forest to the dunes and then down to the beach, although the high water levels leave little beach left right now. The non-resident fee is $9. The huge forest covered dunes are amazing.

Explore the arts community in downtown Saugatuck with its shops and restaurants. Uncommon Ground is the LGBTQ oriented coffee shop. It is a very walkable small town. Rent a bike at Big Lake Outfitters and ride on the new Blue Star bike and hike trail.

Pick or just buy the local grown blueberries at Blue Star farms. The peaches grown in the area are also very good. Go wine tasting at the Fenn Valley Vineyards.

There is so much to do in this beautiful area on the shores of Lake Michigan.

The What Not in Fennville is open at 50 percent capacity. The salmon, perch, and taco salad are all excellent plus it is very LGBTQ friendly. You will find the restaurant just south of Douglas on Blue Star Highway.

Enjoy fresh made juices, sandwiches, and salads with local ingredients at The Farmhouse Deli (100 Blue Star Highway). Try the carrot or beet juice blends.

Have a slice of pizza or homemade sandwich at Lakeshore Convenience, 655 Blue Star Highway.

Grab a coffee drink at Uncommon Coffee in Saugatuck. It’s the LGBTQ friendly hang out in town with micro roasted coffee beans to take home.

You will not run out of things to do in the Saugatuck area. However, hurry, the season ends just after Labor Day.

For more information, visit Saugatuck.com, dunesresort.com, or campit.com.

Bill Malcolm is America’s only syndicated LGBTQ value travel columnist. He is based in Indianapolis.

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Rehoboth Beach 2021: plan now for fun, safe return to normal

Business owners excited for summer season after lost year

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Rehoboth, gay news, Washington Blade

As you plan your return to Rehoboth Beach for the 2021 spring and summer season you should know what to expect as the town prepares to bounce back from last year’s pandemic closures and restrictions.

Rehoboth Beach is all of one square mile in the middle of Sussex County, Del, which for decades has been a destination for the LGBTQ community. One of the reasons for that is the work over many years of CAMP Rehoboth, the LGBTQ community center. Its executive director, David Mariner, said, “CAMP Rehoboth remains optimistic and excited about summer 2021 in Rehoboth Beach. Many new restaurants and businesses are opening around us, coupled with fun events and happenings. The CAMP Rehoboth staff and volunteers are busy planning for the community. Sure, we can’t predict when large gatherings will return or the pandemic will end, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t good, clean, safely distanced fun to be had for all.”

It is anticipated this will be a very different experience from the 2020 season when the pandemic was just beginning. While the pandemic isn’t over and we still must be careful, wearing masks and washing hands, the business community at the beach is ready and prepared for the crowds to return. They have been working hard over the past year to make sure this summer is safe and exciting. And the town recently restored the barriers allowing many restaurants to expand outdoor service to sidewalks and parking spaces.

The Blade spoke to a number of business owners who see this as a chance to make up for what many consider a lost year. Joe Mack, who owns Double Dippers on 1st Street, said, “I will be opening for my 23rd season March 26. I am the original owner — Tom Gile, my business partner, passed in 2015 — and look forward to a huge season as people get their lives back.” It’s good old-fashioned ice cream served with a smile. He even shared, “It’s Joe Biden’s favorite ice cream parlor and his favorite is chocolate chip in a waffle cone.”

Speaking of President Biden, many expect to see him at his home at the beach. He has always been a Rehoboth booster. He and first lady Jill Biden love grabbing lunch from Lori’s Oy Veh Café in the CAMP courtyard. Proprietor Lori Kline said she thinks “summer of 2021 is going to be great! I believe folks are ready and hopeful for vaccines and we are in a much better and positive place.” Her chicken salad is still to die for.

Bob Suppies, co-owner of the The Pines and Aqua Grill, which weather permitting plans to reopen on April 9, wants everyone to know, “This summer will be an amazing time to visit Rehoboth Beach. Although I believe some state mandates will still be in place, we have learned over the past year how to safely offer food and drinks and continue with entertainment.”

Former Rehoboth Beach Commissioner Lisa Schlosser wants visitors to know “Rehoboth is open for an exciting season. The sun is shining, our favorite shops and restaurants are open with lots of new outdoor dining. We can’t wait to see the community come back together for fun at the beach.”

It is not only restaurant owners and politicians who are signaling Rehoboth is ready for business. Lee Ann Wilkinson, Realtor and CEO of The Lee Ann Wilkinson Group, said, “All beach businesses, including our real estate offices, have worked throughout the winter to welcome people back to the beach safely. Real estate hasn’t slowed down since last year, and we anticipate and look forward to a very busy summer season.”

One of the great places ready to welcome people back is The Purple Parrot, according to owners Hugh Fuller and Troy Roberts. Fuller said, “This coming season is like no other and so many hopes ride on this year as if it is the first season for all of us. 2021 has brought us so much hope already and the energy in the air is already bringing promises of more good things to come. This summer will be one for the record books not just financially, but emotionally.

Here is to 2021 and to new beginnings.”

Many more of the town’s best restaurants are anticipating the new season, including the always great Eden Restaurant and its more casual cousin Jam, both on the beach block of Baltimore Avenue. Also returning for the 2021 season is the veteran Back Porch, and Meghan Kee’s award-winning La Fable, Houston White, and her new offering, the Italian spot Delmata. Then there’s Port 251 with its popular Sunday drag brunch right on Rehoboth Avenue; and the grand dame of dining in Rehoboth, the Blue Moon. Cafe Azafran and Goolees Grill are also ready to welcome visitors. The Coffee Mill is ready and Mel Demascena said the café is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

Brashhh on 1st Street celebrates its eighth season. Demascena said “Bob and I are opening another place The Mill Creamery. It will serve local farm fresh ice cream and milk shakes, fresh squeezed juices and desserts, right across from the Coffee Mill in our very happy courtyard.”

Longtime Rehoboth businessman Steve Fallon, who owns Gidget’s Gadgets and now a second place selling vinyl records, Extendedplay, said, “With a new president and the roll out of more vaccinations daily, I would call this the summer of hope. The clouds are opening to bluer skies and our tears for our loved ones who passed will hopefully turn into laughter and new beginnings. Stay safe and see you at the end of the rainbow.”

Then there is Rick and Dave’s Coho’s Market and Grill on Rehoboth Avenue. They took a chance when they opened right in the middle of the pandemic so this will be their first full season. Then there’s Elegant Slumming and Philip Morton Gallery, mainstays on Baltimore Avenue.

There are two new places on 1st Street, giving it a nice upgrade, with the opening of the Square One Grill by the owners of the popular Diego’s Bar and Nightclub. It’s a great spot for the perfectly crafted martini. Also highly anticipated is the opening of Freddie’s Beach Bar by Freddie Lutz in the old Pond space (it moved out to the highway with a reopening planned for April 5).

Don’t forget to make your animals happy and stop into Critter Beach on Rehoboth Avenue. Then partake in the culture of Rehoboth Beach and buy a ticket to a show at the amazing Clear Space Theatre. Their productions over the years have been top-notch and if the small group of residents who are trying to force them out of town finally loses their fight, then Clear Space will have a beautiful new theater in the near future. They are a town treasure.

This will be a summer not to be missed at the beach. So mask up and make your plans early as hotels and home rentals are booking fast.

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VIDEOS: Wilton Manors during a pandemic

Bars, restaurants and clubs open with some COVID restrictions

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Wilton Drive in Wilton Manors, Fla., on March 8, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

WILTON MANORS, Fla. — Bars, clubs and restaurants in the Florida city of Wilton Manors are open, but with some pandemic restrictions still in place.

Georgie’s Alibi Monkey Bar, a bar and restaurant on Wilton Drive, on March 6 had socially distant tables inside and outside.

Bartenders and servers wore masks, but a go-go dancer who was dancing on a platform near the dance floor did not wear one.

Small groups of patrons who were standing on the dance floor were also not wearing masks.

A drag queen who greeted patrons inside Georgie’s Alibi Monkey Bar was wearing a mask and a face shield. Windows were also open to provide additional ventilation.

Several dozen people at Hunters, a nightclub in the same strip mall where Georgie’s Alibi Monkey Bar is located, on the same night were crowded onto an outside patio as they were drinking. Lit, a bar a few blocks away on Wilton Drive, had cornhole and other games set up in the parking lot.

Other bars and restaurants along Wilton Drive had tables placed along the sidewalk. Indoor dining was also available, but at limited capacity in order to adhere to social distancing rules.

Broward County as of last Oct. 16 has allowed businesses to serve food and alcohol to remain open until midnight, and offer dine-in service until midnight.

“Social distancing and facial covering requirements, restaurant capacity limits, and sanitation and safety requirements to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) remain in effect,” reads the city of Wilton Manors’ website.

The website notes businesses “licensed to serve food may operate at up to 100 percent of indoor capacity if a distance of six feet is maintained between tables, and no more than six people at a table.” Bars that “only serve alcohol, and are not licensed to serve food, must operate at no more than 50 percent of their indoor capacity.”

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VIDEO: Bourbon Street in the French Quarter

Coronavirus restrictions remain in place in New Orleans

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A handful of people drink on the sidewalk in front of Café Lafitte in Exile in New Orleans’ French Quarter on March 1, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

NEW ORLEANS — Bars in New Orleans continue to operate at limited capacity because of the coronavirus.

Café Lafitte in Exile, a gay bar on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, on March 1 allowed groups of up to six people to sit at indoor tables on both of its floors. The bar is open every day from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., but it requires patrons to wear masks when they enter.

A handful of people were drinking on the sidewalk in front of Café Lafitte in Exile at around 6 p.m. on March 1 when the Washington Blade drove down Bourbon Street. Oz, a gay dance club across the street, was closed.

Several other bars on Bourbon Street were also open, but only a handful of people were inside them.

Bars in the French Quarter were closed last July when the Blade reported from New Orleans.

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