florida

Is Lake Worth’s Trans City Manager Unfairly Targeting Local Gay Bar?

Owners of The Cottage, a bar in Lake Worth, Florida, have been claiming a cabal of four local residents have waged a three-year campaign against the gay establishment by filing noise complaints almost daily ever since the bar began hosting Sunday Tea Dances. Police, apparently, were sympathetic to the bar but had to continue responding to any complaints. But when Cottage owner Loretta Lutfy in 2009 met with city manager Susan Stanton [pictured] to see what could be done about the baseless harassment of her bar, Lufty claims she was dismissed from Stanton’s office — and told “men in dresses, and men dancing with men is offensive. If you continue, you will just have to suffer the consequences.” And now that the situation has gained international attention (city officials say they’ve heard complaints as far away as Latvia), city commissioners are getting involved. But to Mayor Rene Varela, gay businesses like The Cottage are simply pulling “the gay card.”

While Lake Worth’s city commissioners passed a resolution reaffirming the area’s commitment to “full and equal rights for all of its residents and employees regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity,” other city officials say they’re being unfairly blamed, relays the Palm Beach Post.

The e-mail campaign stemmed from an online petition on Change.org by The Cottage that claims the bar has been the target of unfair enforcement of the city’s noise ordinance because it hosts Sunday tea dances for gays and lesbians. The owner of The Cottage, Loretta Lufty, said Stanton also has used selective code enforcement to target the bar at 522 Lucerne Ave. The e-mail petition has generated more than 1,300 responses from as far away as Canada. Vice Mayor Suzanne Mulvehill said she received e-mails from Latvia about The Cottage and the city’s alleged homophobic actions. She called the e-mail campaign “cyber-bullying.” Mulvehill suggested writing a press release explaining the city’s position and working with the Palm Beach County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau to repair the city’s reputation.

Mayor Rene Varela said he did not see a pattern of behavior against businesses owned by or catering to gays and lesbians in the city and accused The Cottage of “pulling out the gay card.” The owner of The Cottage, Loretta Lufty, said Stanton has used selective code enforcement to target the bar at 522 Lucerne Ave. The Cottage has been cited twice under the city’s new noise ordinance, though there have been 15 calls there in response to noise complaints since the new noise ordinance was enacted in November.

And add this to the mix: City manager Stanton is trans, was fired from her old job because she had a sex change, and says she feels like she’s the one being bullied: “This is extremely difficult for me. I have felt the sting of harassment. The comments attributed to me on the website are not correct.” Would a trans woman tell another queer person that “men in dresses, and men dancing with men is offensive”?