Here are the winners of SFGN's "Best of 2016" in Palm Beach County.
Best Palm Beach Activist
Julie Seaver, Compass Center Operations Manager
201 N Dixie Highway
Julie Seaver, who has won SFGN’s Best Palm Beach Activist award for the second time, lives her lesbian life openly and deliberately. As Center Operations Manager at Compass, she’s constantly engaged with people who are going to judge the center and its employees, and all LGBT people based on their dealings with her. She doesn’t fail. She doesn’t pull punches. She represents us well.
“Julie embodies the spirit of activism both in the office and out of the office,” said Ryanmarie Rice, Compass Chief of Staff. “She has certainly earned the Best Activist title for a second consecutive year. No one works harder for her community than Julie Seaver.”
Craig Glover, president of A Better Way Home Care, has been working with Julie using the SAGE Care program to educate his staff about issues faced by LGBT seniors.
"Julie’s openness in sharing her life stories has enabled our staff to talk more freely about their own experiences,” said Glover, “Julie is a convincing proponent of equality for everyone and truly deserving of this recognition,” he said.
Years ago SFGN gave her the epithet “Lake Worth Lesbian” and it’s still so true today.
Best Bar & Atmosphere
H G Roosters
823 Belvedere Rd.
Established in 1984, Roosters is the longest continually operating gay bar in Palm Beach County. Located on Belvedere Road in West Palm Beach, the bar is less than a quarter of a mile east of I95 so it’s a convenient location for customers from all of Palm Beach County and points north.
Some months ago, SFGN ran an update on the bars in South Florida. At that time Rooster’s had just made some significant upgrades, painting, cleaning, and remodelling. They also initiated a no smoking policy.
To accommodate their smoking clients, the bar remodelled the outdoor patios. According to Manager David Hazen the transition was swift and easy and improves the atmosphere tremendously.
Besides winning Best Bar they also won the reader submitted category of Best Atmosphere.
“We had a good air exchange system,” Hazen said. “But it wasn’t as good as completely eliminating the smoke. Smoking is bad for health and more people are coming to know this.”
Regular client James Timmerman loves the atmosphere at Roosters. “It’s a real neighbourhood bar,” he said. People know your name and are genuinely concerned about each other. This is true for both the bartenders and customers.”
“We must be doing something right,” Hazen said. “We have very loyal employees and very little turnover.”
“There’s also a sense of responsibility to the larger community,” Timmerman said. “We help raise money for good causes.”
“We raised $14,000 for breast cancer,” Hazen said. Ten thousand dollars for Pulse Victims and we’re in 10th place in fund raising for The Ride.”
“And,” said Timmerman. “There’s something different happening every night so you’re never bored.”
902 N Dixie Hwy, Lantana
Penny Johnson is the winner of Best Palm Beach Bartender for 2016, having won the same honor in 2015.
Born and raised in Kokomo, IN, Penny came east to earn a degree at the Art Institute in Broward.
Warm weather and a good job as an aerial photographer kept her here. A taste of the South Florida lifestyle didn’t hurt. It was quite a contrast to her Midwestern experiences.
She moved to Palm Beach County because she met a girl. The girl didn’t last; the relocation did. She and her new partner, Julie Seaver, have been together for eleven years.
“I know I’m prejudiced,” said Seaver, herself a 2015/2016 “Best of…” winner for activism. “But who would know Penny better than me?”
“When she opened the bar three years ago people referred to it as ‘the lesbian bar,’” said Seaver. “But Penny has created a welcoming space for everyone and any night you stop in you’ll find a wide mix of people conversing and enjoying themselves because they all feel safe and welcome.”
“People are people,” said Johnson. “We need to focus on what makes us the same, not what makes us different.
Dave’s Last Resort & Raw Bar
632 Lake Ave.
For a neighborhood sports bar and seafood shack -- expect wood paneling, noise on game days, but some pretty neat fish motifs on the bar stools -- Dave’s Last Resort and Raw Bar in Lake Worth, can also make a mean burger.
Six burgers are featured on the Last Resort menu, ranging from $8.99 to $11.99, and each one starts with an 8 oz. patty of Black Angus beef, which could explain how Dave’s, open since 1999, earned this year’s Best Burger in Palm Beach County.
Beginning with the Inlet Burger for $8.99, you can get one unadulterated angus beef patty, seasoned, cooked to order. Or go completely the other way with a Hangover Burger topped with peanut butter and grilled onions for $9.69. The California Burger comes with avocado and sprouts for $10.69. The Bayou Burger has bacon, gorgonzola and Tabasco onion straws for $11.69. And at the $11.99 end you can choose between the El Gordo, topped with pulled pork, remoulade, and onion straws or the Texas Burger topped with taco beef, cheddar and pepper jack cheeses.
If you go for something besides burgers, the fish dip served with jalapeno and crackers ($8.29), the gator appetizer ($12.99) and the fried clam strips ($8.79)—gator and clam both served with key lime tartar sauce -- are recommended as well.
Dave’s is open for business 11 a.m. to midnight, Sundays through Thursdays, and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Best City & Beach
Lake Worth/Lake Worth Beach
2016 is Lake Worth’s fourth consecutive year as the SFGN Palm Beach Best City to Live in. And it’s the second for Lake Worth Beach beating out such locations as Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Boynton Beach and other municipal beaches up the coast to the border of Martin County.
“It’s not that huge flocks of LGBT folk land on Lake Worth shores,” said openly gay commissioner, Andy Amoroso, who notes that the “gay beach” is just south of the pier. “It’s more a case of feeling safe being yourself while enjoying the accommodations available to all – Like Benny’s on the Beach or the Lake Worth Pier and the public park.”
The sense of safety pervades the rest of the city as well. Lake Worth has led the pack in attracting gay organizations and events such as Compass and its annual PrideFest, gay-owned and operated businesses such as the Zoo Health Club and Amoroso’s own Studio 205, still the only purveyor of LGBT paraphernalia in the county.
The city also hosts Lambda North, a gay 12-step clubhouse and Integrity, the LGBT branch of the Episcopal Church located at St. Andrew’s on Palmway.
Amoroso pointed out the city’s efforts in supporting LGBT visibility and equality for employee benefits, marriage, and more. In 2000, then Mayor Rodney Romano raised the Pride Flag at city hall in honor of PrideFest becoming the first Florida municipality to do so.
“We are truly honored by SFGN’s recognition of Lake Worth and the Lake Worth Beach as ‘best of’ Palm Beach cities and beaches,” continued Amoroso. “With the advent of federal marriage equality and newfound integration of LGBT issues into the fabric of society at large we are proud to have provided the shoulders on which generations of LGBT activists have been able to stand and will continue to stand in the future.”
WPB Best Drag Queen
Melissa St. John
Melissa St. John is an entertainer who knows how to multitask. Known as the First Lady of West Palm Beach, this fabulous drag queen is also the reigning Miss South Florida Illusions Classic 2016. Every Saturday, you can find her at Roosters, where she holds court as the Entertainment Director.
Ms. St. John does not slow down for the holidays. In December, she can be seen at the Lake Worth Playhouse for the annual Christmas show. This is the show’s 10th year featuring the group of entertainers affectionately known as ‘The Palm Beach Drag Society.’ The show is a partially-scripted comedy where the naughty and nice performers actually imbibe on stage while singing and engaging in slapstick.
If that’s not enough, she is also the MC for the annual PrideFest of the Palm Beaches. Her calendar is filled hosting various dinner shows and events throughout Palm Beach County.
Ms. St. John is active on social media, you can follow her at:
201 N. Dixie Hwy.
This isn’t the first time Compass has been recognized as the best non-profit in Palm Beach County on our Best Of list. In fact, it’s not even the second time. In 2016, this is the third year in a row Compass has taken home this award.
The gay and lesbian community center of Palm Beach County in its current form has been around for 24 years, but remnants of it started back in 1988 to fight the spread of HIV and the stigma of living with the disease.
Today, HIV prevention is still a major part of Compass’s mission, along with case management, LGBT-related support groups, and youth-centered programs for struggling LGBT youth as well as family groups.
Currently, Compass has served more than 25,000 people in the largest LGBT community center in the Southeast U.S. With almost 30 years of education, advocacy, and community support, it’s no surprise that Compass has won this award three years in a row.
114 S. Clematis St., West Palm Beach
Two-time winner for Best Pizza in Palm Beach County, the Pizza Girls, Jennifer Morales and Phoebe Reckseit have been treating their Clematis Street customers to N.Y. style pizza since 1999.
The Girls offer gourmet pies like the Tribeca Burger, a cheddar cheeseburger pizza; the Statue of Liberty, a bacon, ricotta and mozzarella pizza with fresh tomatoes instead of sauce; the Village Veggie or the Manhattan Meat for $22.95. A slice will run you between $4 and $4.50.
Morales and Reckseit, both New York transplants, married in New York in 2013, but they’ve been partners for more than 20 years.
“Twenty years ago when we started making pizza, if you didn't have Baker's Pride Brick ovens, people didn't consider it being ‘real New York pizza’,” Morales told SFGN in a previous interview.
“People would look to see what type of ovens we were using before they judged our pizza. And being two women, they were very skeptical to begin with,” Morales said. “Things have changed so much in the pizza industry now, it's amazing.”
The restaurant sits next to a Sloan’s ice cream parlor, and across from World of Beer and Palm Beach Dramaworks, so dinner, date, drinks and dessert are all within walking distance of each other for a perfect park-and-stroll. Hours are Sunday, noon to 9 p.m., Monday through Wednesday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Thursday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights the shop stays open late serving slices and pies from 11 a.m. until 4 a.m.
Lois Frankel (Congresswoman, 22nd District)
For almost 30 years, Lois Frankel has served in many different roles, but all of them have been dedicated to public service in South Florida. After being a state representative in the late ‘80s and through the ‘90s, Frankel was elected Mayor of West Palm Beach and served from 2003-2011. She’s now a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, where’s she’s been since 2013.
As a long-time public servant, Frankel has stood up for human rights for decades.
“As a young state legislator in the 1980s, our state was just learning about AIDS,” Frankel said. “At the time, the disease was fatal — irrational discrimination against HIV-infected people was rampant. I was assigned to Chair a special task force on HIV/AIDS which led to the first AIDS Omnibus Act in 1988 that protected LGBT individuals from workplace discrimination.”
But success doesn’t come without a lot of work.
“The most challenging part of my job is cutting through all the red tape of government,” she said. “I've been able to draw on my years of experience at all levels to understand the art of how to get things done. Congress is made up of diverse people from all across this country and to move things forward, you have to find points of common interest in order to create change.”
Frankel has a long history of serving South Florida, but sometimes it’s not always easy to stay on track. She’s got her own way of focusing her attention.
“One thing people don't know about me is that the way I keep focused attention during the many meetings I attend every day is by doodling,” she said. “Afterwards, I turn many of the doodles into large abstract acrylic paintings.”
If she wasn’t in Congress, Frankel admits she’d be painting. Her offices in West Palm and DC have her transformed artwork on display.
Best Palm Beach Monthly Event
Pride Business Alliance Monthly Mixer
201 North Dixie Highway
Lake Worth, FL 33461
This recognition is particularly appropriate since the June 2016 meeting marked the 11th anniversary of the Pride Business Alliance (PBA) Monthly Mixer. It was held at Grandview Gardens Bed & Breakfast which hosted the first mixer in 2005 and many more since.
“We wanted to create a way for LGBT and non-LGBT people to reach out to one another to market products and services and keep each other aware of new opportunities,” said Rick Rose, long-time Compass member and co-owner of Grandview Gardens. “And it’s always a good time.”
“I love the mixers,” said Adrienne Percival, Compass Development Coordinator who manages the mixers and readily shares her enthusiasm for the program. “”Members host at their facilities and some of them are very different.”
She particularly liked the Audi Palm Beach showroom and the Norton Museum.
PBA Members attend the mixers for free; non members are asked for a $10 donation. Information on joining the PBA is available on the Compass website.
4700 S Dixie Hwy
West Palm Beach
Howley’s Restaurant isn’t gay in the sense of a Mad Hatter flying rainbow flags for all to see but it’s very gay in its sensitivity to the outré, from its menu of the plebian to the exotic, reasonable prices, quality preparation, presentation and efficient servers – many (most?) with extensive body art. A full bar is available to enjoy with a meal.
The restaurant was opened as a diner in 1950 by Patrick Howley. The Subculture Group bought it in 2004, adding it to a stable of restaurants from Miami to West Palm Beach owned by Rodney Mayo. He restored a number of its historical features like terrazzo floors and tin ceilings.
Local artists are invited to display their work in the restaurant, and permanent murals by Amanda Valdez of cartoon wait staff are featured on the outside
General Manager Nicole Nichols was thrilled to learn the restaurant had won the “Best of…” award. “Howley’s is just a fun place for all people to visit,” Nichols said. “We have regular LGBT diners as we have straight ones. Everyone is welcome. We once even had a gay couple hold their wedding luncheon here.”
Best Palm Beach Social Group
201 No Dixie Highway, Lake Worth
About three years ago, Compass recognized that when youth group participants aged out of their programs at age 18, there was nothing available to provide support for the next phase of their lives. So Compass created Entourage.
“It’s a real problem for many young people when they no longer have structured programs providing safe, healthy social outlets,” said Julie Seaver, Center Operations Manager at Compass. “This award recognizes the work Dylan Brooks has done to address these needs.”
Meetings for the different programs are held weekly and monthly and usually attract twenty-five plus attendees.
Entourage member Rex Barnes, 26, who found the group on Face Book, said, “Entourage has been a real eye-opener for me. It has introduced me to so many more aspects of LGBT life than just the bar scene and I have made friends who will be with me for the rest of my life.”
Said Compass’ Brooks, “I love when I see the guys striving in a judgment free environment that I did not have when I was their age growing up in rural Northeast Georgia. They are full of life, helping each other with their struggles, and truly building a solid support system.”
Best Palm Beach Place to Workout
Zoo Health Club
824 Lake Ave
Zoo Gym in downtown Lake Worth has received the award for Best Palm Beach Place to Workout for the 4th time. Founded six years ago by Dawn Malega and her wife, Sarah (Parr) Malega, the club boasts almost 800 members of which about 80 percent are LGBT.
A small space (2,700 sq ft), the club is intimate in many ways more than just its dimension. General Manager Jacqueline Bish (Bodies by Bish) encourages everyone who joins to reach their potential.
Members have keycode access to the club 24 hours a day and people can be seen exercising at all hours of the day and night.
“As soon as I walked in the door I felt like I was home,” said Glenn Taylor, a club regular and member of the National Physique Committee (NPC) where he is a physique competitor. “It was like the owner/operator gyms I remember from my youth,” he added.
“Dawn and Sarah are wonderful friends and have sponsored some of my competitions,” he said. “And I’ve made a lot of new friends while working out.”
“We are looking at possible expansion,” Malega said. “But we hesitate to lose our family-like atmosphere which makes us best.”