West Palm Beach honors gay bar as a landmark site of historic interest

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The HG Roosters marchers at West Palm Beach Pride, 2018
The HG Roosters contingent at West Palm Beach Pride, 2018 (Photo: HG Roosters)

The city of West Palm Beach in South Florida has added a long-running LGBTQ bar, HG Roosters, to its Register of Historic Places.

It makes it the only gay venue in Florida to be recognized as a designated historic site, and only the third in the U.S., after the Stonewall Inn in New York City and Atlanta Eagle in Atlanta.

HG Roosters in 2019
HG Roosters in 2019 (Image: Google Maps)

HG Roosters can be found at 823 Belvedere Road. In the motion to recognize its importance, it was noted that “the site has been a safe gathering space for the LGBTQ community for over 60 years. It has also been instrumental in being a leader in philanthropic efforts on behalf of the AIDS pandemic, Breast Cancer and other charities, as well as sponsoring various gay pride initiatives.”

Related: Iconic San Francisco gay bar reopens after being shuttered for a year

Roosters dates back to 1984, but previous to this it was known under different names, including Turf West in the 1960s.

The historic preservation board previously agreed to the designation in March, but it came before the city commission for a vote on Monday (April 5).

Afterward, owner A.J. Wasson said, “This evening’s vote was unanimous. It’s a huge honor to be recognized. Our hearts are full,” reports South Florida Gay News.

“Rooster’s has a legacy of giving and caring and this designation will cement that legacy well into the future after we’re all gone.”

‘Glow night’ at HG Roosters, pre-pandemic (Photo: Supplied)

Sadly, Rooster’s suffered a dreadful fire last May, a few weeks after shuttering because of the pandemic. It destroyed the kitchen and some of the roof, with water and smoke damage throughout the rest of the venue. As it was closed at the time, and facing mounting debts, the owners decided to prioritize paying employees and had stopped paying their insurance in April.

Facing a huge repairs bill, it set up a GoFundMe for help. It’s raised $59,000 of a $100,000 target.

HG Roosters suffered a devastating fire last year, leaving it a burned-out shell
HG Roosters suffered a devastating fire last year, leaving it a burned-out shell (Photo: Supplied)

Related: 10 of the oldest and most iconic gay bars in the US

Wasson says the venue will definitely reopen and architects have now finalized rebuilding plans. The stone-clad exterior will remain as it is, but the interior will be greatly changed. He’s estimating construction work will take another six months and is aiming for a fall or early winter reopening. He believes the new historic designation will help with the reopening plans and the permit process.

Wasson told GayCities, “With this historic designation the city of West Palm Beach sent a strong and clear message to its LGBTQ+ citizens. That message is, ‘we see you, we embrace you and your history is our history’.”

At the same meeting on Monday, the city commission approved the construction of a rainbow crosswalk at the intersection of Northwood Road and Spruce Avenue, in the Northwood Village neighborhood. It’s hoped the crosswalk will be in place for Pride month.

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