On Thursday, June 16, 2016, as we stood in solidarity with the LGBTQ community, during the aftermath of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, not everyone in our community stood with us.
I gathered a large group of people together for a Sunset Candlelight Vigil at Rumors Bar & Grill in Wilton Manors, and even though the rain came pouring out of the clouds, 100-plus gathered under the covered patio where we held 49 candles; one candle for each victim that lost their life 4 days prior. We stood with sweat pouring off of us while we prayed and cried and cried out for a coming together of the community. It was a beautiful gathering, and for those few moments, we were all connected by a common thread.
But, not all of us stood together.
In the background, as we held hands, spoke the name of each of the 49 and prayed, 2 tow trucks pulled up at Progress Bar to tow the vehicles of everyone who was suspected of not being a patron of that bar.
Progress has a long-standing history of towing vehicles and even those who patronize their facility stand to be towed if they dare to do the bar crawl that we have all become accustomed to. There is a sign that has become somewhat of a fixture in their empty parking lot, warning people that their parking lot is for their customers only. Seems legitimate enough from a legal standpoint but definitely out of place in a community like Wilton Manors.
I would almost be disappointed with the decision of Progress Bar to tow cars while a candlelight vigil is taking place just a few feet away, but I have become accustomed to this disconnect between Progress Bar and the rest of the community.
Progress Bar stands where New Moon once stood and honestly, I for one was hopeful that the women in the community could possibly find our new home there. We were already quite used to gathering there and so we waited patiently for them to renovate and open.
The renovation team parked their vehicles in the parking lot at Rumors, and Rumors Bar & Grill, as well as a few other bars in the area looked forward to working with Progress Bar to do community events. In fact, they were in the process of planning an event like that when Rumors submitted plans to the City of Wilton Manors to construct the outdoor patio.
While Rumors worked with their construction team and the City to get a permit to build, Progress was working against Rumors to stop the construction of that patio addition. Although Progress was unsuccessful in their bid to stop the Rumors patio addition, they were successful in wasting a lot of time, money and resources, costing both the bar and the city money in defending their decision to approve the permit.
Hunters, Village Pub and Rumors Bar & Grill, all have a great record of giving back to the community. They all donate their resources to organizations like the Pride Center, as well as giving back to the community at large. In addition to the support they give to the community, they also support each other’s events and during the holiday season, bartenders from each of the bars step in to work in the other bar so that every bar can have a holiday party for their employees. While Rumors staff is away celebrating the holiday together, patrons are served at Rumors by the staff of Village Pub, and vice-versa. This collaboration and sense of community has become common on The Drive, however Progress Bar is on The Drive, but not part of our community.
I am confused by the vision of Progress Bar of South Florida. Their vision, according to their website, speaks of hope and moving forward together, but they fail in implementing the vision.
"The goal was to create something that was more than a bar. A definitive message wrapped in hand crafted visuals designed to remind us how far we've come as a community. Progress- moving forward together."
Progress Bar, you have failed in your vision and you have failed all of us who waited with hope for you to open your doors. You have excluded yourselves from our community and this saddens me. We were ready and willing to embrace you and you towed us away.
Rumors Bar & Grill, along with their partner restaurant, Shawn & Nick's Courtyard Cafe, employ the largest number of people on The Drive. Hunters and Village Pub both offer a welcoming environment to everyone, and all you have offered us is an empty parking lot that we cannot park in and tow service that we cannot afford.
Shame on you Progress Bar for coming into our community and attempting to set us back rather than using your resources to move us progressively forward.
As we stand in solidarity as one community, we welcome you to stand with us; but hurry as we are losing faith in your willingness to do so.
Carol Lynne Watson