The LGBT attractions and amenities in Fort Lauderdale and Wilton Manors usually get most of the attention, but Pompano Beach and Palm Aire are giving the two a little friendly competition of late.
Earlier this summer, a group of almost two-dozen men raised a large rainbow flag near the Pompano Beach Pier and ceremoniously dubbed a section of it as Stonewall Beach.
One of the men had been at the New York City Stonewall Inn in 1969 during the riots that would spark the modern LGBT rights movement.
There are no such riots at the beach, but there is the inviting Lucky Fish tiki hut bar near the workout station that has been attracting gay clientele. While it’s not specifically a gay bar, the Oceanic Restaurant-managed spot has some gay employees looking to serve up food and drinks to eager beachgoers.
The area in and around the pier has other new action recently. There was a boost when the popular $6.5 million Beach House Pompano restaurant welcomed residents and visitors about two years ago. The Oceanic came about a year after that.
Other additions are on the way. Filling in areas of the wide, three-mile-long beach are more restaurants, a Kilwins and more.
Anthony Kulp also wants to make sure you know about the easy parking.
“One of the things that prompted [Stonewall Beach] was people complaining about the parking at Sebastian [Beach],” Kulp said. “I used to go there, but I don’t want to get there at 10 o’clock in the morning to get a parking space. When I would go, you’d have to sit there to wait for someone to pull out in order to park.”
Fort Lauderdale’s Sebastian Beach is often referred to as the gay beach in Broward.
Kulp is the force behind Stonewall Beach. He said he’d been thinking about it for over a year and once the Pompano pier was finished with its revamp, he thought it was time.
“I put the idea up on my ‘Palm Aire Social’ [Facebook] page, which has about 800 members, and I said: ‘this is what I want to do,’” Kulp said.
Pompano Beach City Commissioner Barry Moss, naturally, thinks all of the hoopla is great.
He’s been a commissioner for six years and represents district five, which includes Palm Aire — the vast development and country club in southwest Pompano — where he also lives.
To be sure, there are plenty of residents on the right of the political spectrum living in Pompano, but Moss said the city is progressive and LGBT friendly.
“I can tell you that I’m openly gay, and my colleagues know it,” Moss said. “No one bats an eye.”
Moss, 71, came out 50 years ago.
“I’ve seen such a sea change in attitude. Not only from the general public, but also from gay people. Most people don’t care — just cut your grass; don’t have trash in your yard. I’ve never met anyone in Pompano that’s been disparaging,” he said.
Moss said Pompano and Palm Aire often attract gay retirees who have good finances — former business professionals, teachers, doctors and lawyers.
“They have more disposable income and aren’t afraid to spend it,” he said.
Barry Moss. Courtesy photo.
Short(ish) drive to Wilton Drive
Meanwhile, Kulp is also a force as a realtor. In fact, he’s known as the “King of Palm Aire.” He lives there with his husband, Jim Beauter.
The two are from Pennsylvania.
“He’s a little older and when we met he said he was going to retire and move to Fort Lauderdale,” Kulp said. “And that’s how I got into real estate.”
Kulp’s been in real estate for 21 years and housing for 40. He was a contractor doing mostly kitchen and bath remodeling.
The two would eventually buy a home in Wilton Manors, but it ended up being a little bit too small for their taste. So they moved to Palm Aire about five years ago.
Kulp said more gay people are casting an eye toward what Pompano has to offer, and that Palm Aire has attracted LGBT people to the area for years.
So much so, that he started the Palm Aire Social, which was attracting 250 men every second Tuesday of the month at the Oaks Clubhouse before the pandemic hit.
It’s not all to say that Fort Lauderdale and Wilton Manors have lost their standing or their touch. But Kulp thinks its northern neighbors offer a value that’s hard to beat and even a comparable lifestyle.
“A lot of people I sell to are coming from Wilton Manors like I did,” Kulp said. “The first thing I ask [clients] is: ‘What do you like to do? Do you like the beach? Do you like to golf? Do you like to drink?’ If they like to drink, they usually prefer Wilton Manors. If they like to entertain, you want to live in Palm Aire.”
He said Palm Aire units offer large kitchens, dining rooms and living rooms. Typical units run about 2,000 square feet with balconies.
Today there are about 7,000 units, from efficiency-sized condos to $1 million-plus homes.
Not only that, but Kulp said for those who like to go to Wilton Drive and have drinks, it’s not as far as it might seem.
“And when Uber became more popular with older people, it changed. Now an Uber is more reasonable — almost the cost of one drink,” he said.
Kulp is one of the most active agents in Palm Aire and said it’s a great place for gay people.
“It has a distinct gay vibe,” he said. “But it’s been that way for a long time. There are gay people who bought here in the 1970s. At the time, there was no Wilton Manors.”
Kulp said you could buy a house in Wilton Manors for about $50,000 in the 1970s. The same house today would go for about $500,000, he said.
So even though Pompano is further away from the beach or an entertainment district like Wilton Drive, gay people like it. You’ll often see vehicles driving around with Kulp’s rainbow-colored Palm Aire stickers on windows and bumpers.
“All these guys are coming out saying: ‘I live in Pompano, I’ve been living here, this is so wonderful,’” Kulp said.
Anthony Kulp. Courtesy photo.
Only in Florida
Palm Aire’s history has unique and colorful Florida flair, too — some of it with a little dash of myth.
The land used to be home to five golf courses. As the story goes, Kulp said, the son of a really big builder from Philadelphia saw it in the early 1960s and thought it’d be a great place for high-rise condos, a luxurious spa and the like. But because it was in Pompano Beach, the traditional banks took a pass.
So the son went to the mob in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia for the seed money.
“Supposedly he got Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Mickey Rooney, Jackie Gleason, Elizabeth Taylor and Natalie Wood to come down and stay at the spa he had built,” Kulp said. “They even owned houses and I’m sure they owned some villas.”
Ringo Starr and George Harrison owned two houses as well.
“They probably spent two nights there,” Kulp said with a chuckle. “But that got people interested.”
Homes started selling in 1966 and took off from there. There are three golf courses now, with clubhouses, hair salons, spas, pools and tennis courts.
The stock of Pompano and Palm Aire could rise even more in the coming decade.
The Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park, adjacent to Palm Aire, is getting a major facelift and additions.
Horse racing is going away and Jai Alai is coming in.
In all, 223 acres are being developed over 10 years. Plans call for a lake, a park, 4,500 condos, a town center, retail and restaurants.
The same firm that built the new Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood is spearheading the project.