It’s only been one day since a major fire destroyed the kitchen and parts of the roof of H.G. Roosters, but its owner is determined to rebuild the iconic LGBT bar in West Palm Beach.
“My outlook is good,” said A.J. Wasson as he choked up during a telephone interview Wednesday morning. “I’m just overwhelmed by the amount of love and support we’ve been shown.”
Another setback for Florida’s oldest LGBT bar came to light Wednesday when it was reported the company's insurance policy had lapsed in April.
“It sucks,” Wasson said. “But it is what it is. I can’t cry over spilled milk.”
Wasson said in April when the insurance policy was about to expire his agent told him it would be $25,000 to renew, and it had to be paid upfront.
At the time the bar was already closed and so he made the difficult decision to keep paying his 8 employees and hold off on the insurance.
“That was more important to me than the insurance policy,” he said. “I told my guys your rent is going to be paid, and your bills will be paid, and there will be food on your table.”
In addition, in order to support the local restaurants in the area he offered to reimburse his employees whenever they ordered takeout.
“I told them I’ll pay for the food, but they can leave the tip,” he said.
David Zen, the manager of the bar, said on Facebook, “A.J. being one of the most generous people I’ve ever met […] made a commitment to the employees that he’d continue to pay us during the shutdown, however long it lasted.”
Wasson said the initial estimate to rebuild is $300,000 and will take 3 to 6 months. He’s considering all options to pay for it. Most of the damage is to the kitchen, and the roof, with some damage to the main bar.
There is still no determination of cause yet, but he doesn’t suspect arson. Right now he speculates a lightning bolt may have struck the building.
A GoFundMe page “We Are Roosters” has been set up to cover the cost of rebuilding. It’s already raised more than $8,000.
Julie Seaver, executive director of Compass, was in a state of shock Wednesday morning over the state of the bar.
“Roosters was the original LGBT center here in Palm Beach County. They’ve been helping LGBT people and those living with HIV/AIDS long before Compass was around. I don’t even know if we would have a Compass without the people that started Roosters,” Seaver said. “It’s just so heartbreaking. I am sure they will prevail. They will rebuild.”