CVIndependent

Mon10212019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

On the morning of March 7, a fire broke out near the kitchen of Bongo Johnny’s Patio Bar and Grille—about one hour before the Arenas Road restaurant in downtown Palm Springs was scheduled to open.

The Palm Springs Fire Department quickly put out the blaze—ruled an accident, after linens and oil-soaked rags in a laundry hamper spontaneously combusted—but by then, the damage was done: Bongo Johnny’s kitchen was essentially destroyed, while smoke and water damage closed three of the four other businesses in the building: Stacy’s at Palm Springs, Mischief Cards and Gifts, and the Palm Springs Piercing Company. Only Streetbar, located at the east end of the building, remained open.

More than two weeks later, those four businesses remain closed—and frustration is mounting over a Palm Springs City Council that Bongo Johnny’s general manager called unresponsive, as well as a landlord, Plaza Investment Company, Inc., that’s allegedly being uncooperative.

“My No. 1 goal is to rebuild, as soon as possible,” said Robb Wirt, the owner of Bongo Johnny’s. “The landlord is hindering that. At this time, it’s literally unknown when that will be. … They’re saying they aren’t responsible for the structure of the building. They are!”

Mark Hewitt, Bongo Johnny’s general manager, explained what was happening with the insurance companies, the landlord and the other three businesses.

“I don’t know if ‘fighting’ is the right word to use here,” Hewitt said. “When things like this happen, everybody has their own insurance company. Everyone needs to come to the table here, because at the end of the day, their building burned. Our business burned, and (the landlord’s) business burned. Unfortunately, the stance the landlord is taking is, ‘It’s all your fault,’ and they don’t want to bring their insurance company into it, because they want our insurance company to pay for everything. That’s not how the insurance game works.”

Plaza Investment Company, Inc., did not respond to an interview request as of our deadline.

Wirt said cleaning needs to get started at Bongo Johnny’s so the other three closed businesses in the building can reopen.

“The other businesses have smoke damage, and basically we just need to clean so they can start their process and open up while (Bongo Johnny’s) is under construction,” Wirt said. “We all share an attic space, so if we start cleaning, it’s just going to get dirty again, because the dust will go through the vents.”

Hewitt said they’ve appealed to the Palm Springs City Council for help. “I spoke to Mayor Robert Moon, and he told me, ‘I don’t want to get involved.’ He got involved in Wang’s (in the Desert) over vandalism, but he’s friends with the landlord, and that’s probably why he doesn’t want to get involved.

“It’s a nightmare. I’m under the impression that the City Council’s role is to help small businesses, because we bring in money to the city. I haven’t gotten any help. Geoff Kors hasn’t returned my calls; J.R. Roberts hasn’t returned my calls. I feel like the landlords don’t care. All of the tenants on Arenas pay rent to the same landlord, and (the landlord) hasn’t given back a single dollar to the LGBT community. Yet they take millions of dollars from us, and we all just pay our rent and taxes, and we get nothing out of it.”

Bongo Johnny’s will be closed for months. However, Stacy Louis, the owner of Stacy’s at Palm Springs, expressed hope that his bar could re-open by the end of March.

“There are so many things I’m dealing with, and I’ve never had to deal with anything like this before.” Louis said. “I’m more of the guy who goes with the flow and doesn’t create problems. But when we can’t get action immediately after we’ve had a fire like we did … I am frustrated.

“I actually paid my cleanup company, who was waiting for the landlord to authorize, which took four days and through a weekend. … I could get this going if I have (an asbestos) test, and it comes back at a little less than 1 percent—which it did. I had to wait four days for the second test to be done, because the landlord wouldn’t approve it. My cleanup person paid them out of his pocket to get this second test done so I could get going. I shouldn’t have had to sign a contract with my cleanup company to get started because I’m waiting for one insurance company to work with the other—and I just gave them $5,000 out of my own pocket.”

Stacy’s suffered damage from both smoke and the firefighters’ efforts to put out the fire.

“I have a few holes punched through my restroom, probably from the axes of the firemen, and I have water that’s come in through that same restroom and into the offices and the bar itself,” Louis said.

The employees of both Bongo Johnny’s and Stacy’s are being paid their hourly wages for the time being, Wirt and Louis said, but for Bongo Johnny’s, there’s a race against time: The insurance company will only pay for two months of wages, and Wirt said he is paying his staff what they would normally make in tips out of his own pocket.

“On his own accord, Robb has decided that the little bit of personal cash that he has, he’s going to use to make sure the employees are whole first,” Hewitt said. “But what we’re getting from the landlord is, ‘If you can pay your employees, why don’t you just pay for everything else?’ Three days after the fire, we got all of the employees together and said, ‘We want you back, but we don’t know how long this will be for as of today.’ We’re going to continue to pay them for as long as we can, which is not the narrative you want to give someone sitting at home thinking, ‘I wonder what’s going to happen in two months?’”

Louis said his employees have benefited from the kindness of his fellow Arenas Road business owners.

“I said to (my employees), ‘I will pay you for your hours, and if any of you need help because you’re not making your tips, you can come to me, and I will take care of you until we get this figured out.’ But I think the kindest thing that happened was (at Streetbar). Dick Haskamp, the owner of Streetbar, passed away a few days before the fire. The employees of Streetbar came to me and asked if it was OK if (Stacy’s bartenders) could fill in during the memorial service. I can’t even tell you how many tears that’s brought to my eyes. So we made it all happen. We got a schedule together, and they trained them. … During this (service), all the sales would be donated to Stacy’s, on top of the tips that they would make.”

Wirt said he’s been overwhelmed by messages of support from Bongo Johnny’s customers.

“I’ve been getting e-mails from people on Yelp, Facebook and through my website,” Wirt said. “They’re saying, ‘I just landed; I’m on my way.’ They get there; they find out we’re closed; and they’re like, ‘Oh my God, I always start my trip in Palm Springs at your restaurant.’ Bongo Johnny’s has been there for 12 years, and it’s iconic for the LGBT community. It’s their first stop when they get off the airplane, and I didn’t even realize that until this happened. Now they’re going somewhere else.

“People bring their dog because we’re dog-friendly. … (Customers) come in on a Friday night—and I can guarantee you they’re not eating anywhere else, because of how they might be dressed. They feel safe. Now that’s been taken away from them, and it’s a detriment to the community that we can’t reopen quicker.”


Following publication, we received this response from Geoff Kors:

I was surprised to see the statement that I didn’t return a call from the manager of Bongo Johnny’s, especially as your reporter never reached out to ask me about this issue or whether or not I received a call.

The fire occurred on the day that my husband’s mother died, March 7. We left for Scotland a few days thereafter and returned Tuesday night, March 20. During that time, I checked with our city manager about the situation and also spoke with a friend whose business was impacted due to the fire. I was told that both the mayor and Councilmember Middleton were working on the issue, and I would be briefed upon my return.

I never received any communication from Bongo Johnny’s, and checked with staff at City Hall today and was told that the only call that had been to the mayor, and it was from Rob Wirt. No message was left for me, and I was never informed of a call.

Published in Local Issues

Welcome to the Best of Coachella Valley 2014-2015!

Here’s how these results came to be: Between Aug. 29 and Oct. 3, Coachella Valley Independent readers voted at CVIndependent.com in an open ballot in the categories listed below.

No finalists were selected in advance; readers had to write in their selections.

We then took the top three to five finishers in each category and put them on a final-round ballot, which ran at CVIndependent.com from Oct. 8 to Nov. 7. 

Readers had to provide an email address, and were allowed to submit only one ballot in each round. We sent an email to each voter; if the email bounced, we did not count the ballot associated with that email address.

Here are the results of this first-ever Coachella Valley Independent readers’ poll.

Enjoy!


Arts

Best Art Gallery

Coachella Valley Art Scene

 

Runners up:

2. Gallery 446

3. Heather James Fine Art

4. Archangel Gallery

5. Stewart Gallery

 

Best Indoor Venue

McCallum Theatre

 

Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. The Show at Agua Caliente

4. The Hood Bar and Pizza

5. The Date Shed

 

Best Local Arts Group/Organization

Palm Springs Art Museum

 

Runners up:

2. McCallum Theatre

3. TIE

Coachella Valley Art Scene

Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre

5. Backstreet Arts District

 

Best Local Band

Queens of the Stone Age

 

Runners up:

2. Machin’

3. The Rebel Noise

4. TIE

CIVX

Slipping Into Darkness

 

Best Local DJ

Alf Alpha

 

Runners up:

2. All Night Shoes

3. House Whores

4. TIE

CoffeeBlvck

Femme A

 

Best Local Musician (Individual)

Jesika von Rabbit

 

Runners up:

2. Mark Gregg

3. Giselle Woo

4. Charles Herrera

5. Gene Evaro Jr.

 

Best Local Visual Artist

Elena Bulatova

 

Runners up:

2. Ryan “Motel” Campbell

3. Michael Weems

4. Jennifer Stern

5. Lon Michels

 

Best Movie Theater

Camelot Theatres

 

Runners up:

2. Cinemas Palme d’Or

3. UltraStar Mary Pickford

4. Regal Palm Springs

5. Century Theatres at The River

 

Best Museum

Palm Springs Art Museum

 

Runners up:

2. Coachella Valley History Museum

3. Children’s Discovery Museum

4. Cabot’s Pueblo Museum

5. Palm Springs Art Museum Palm Desert

 

Best Outdoor Venue

The Living Desert

 

Runners up:

2. Empire Polo Club

3. Pappy and Harriet’s

4. Rock Yard at Fantasy Springs

5. The Palms Restaurant


Life in the Valley

Best Alternative Health Center

Stroke Recovery Center

 

Runners up:

2. Nature’s Health Food and Café

3. All-Desert Wellness Centers

4. Live Well Clinic

5. Palm Springs Healing Center

 

Best Farmers’ Market

Palm Springs VillageFest

 

Runners up:

2. Camelot Theatres

3. Old Town La Quinta

4. Palm Desert (Chamber of Commerce)

5. Joshua Tree Certified

 

Best Local Activist/Advocacy Group/Charity

Palm Springs Animal Shelter

 

Runners up:

2. Desert AIDS Project

3. Coachella Valley Rescue Mission

4. Shelter From the Storm

5. LGBT Community Center of the Desert

 

Best Gym

Gold’s Gym Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. World Gym Palm Springs

3. World Gym Palm Desert

4. Palm Springs Fitness Center

5. 24 Hour Fitness

 

Best Public Servant

Congressman Raul Ruiz

 

Runners up:

2. Mayor Steve Pougnet

3. County Commissioner John Benoit

4. Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez

5. Assemblyman Brian Nestande

 

Best Yoga Studio

Bikram Yoga University Village

 

Runners up:

2. Urban Yoga

3. TIE

Coachella Valley Art Scene

Power Yoga

5. Evolve Yoga

 

Best Bowling Alley

Fantasy Lanes at Fantasy Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Lanes

3. Canyon Lanes at Morongo

 

Best Sex Toy Shop

Not So Innocent

 

Runners up:

2. Skitzo Kitty

3. Q Trading Company`

4. Gay Mart

5. Red Panties Boutique

 

Best Auto Repair

Desert Classic Cars

 

Runners up:

2. Performance Plus Automotive

3. TIE

Chuck’s Automotive

European Auto Service

Palm Springs Tire and Automotive

 

Best Car Wash

TIE

Airport Quick Car Wash

Elephant Car Wash/Rancho Super Car Wash (pictured)

 

Runners up:

3. Desert 100 Percent Hand Car Wash

4. Executive Car Wash

5. Red Carpet USA Car Wash

 

Best Plant Nursery

Moller’s Garden Center

 

Runners up:

2. Vintage Nursery

3. Bob Williams Nursery

4. Cactus Mart

5. Moorten Botanical Gardens

 

Best Pet Supplies

PetSmart

 

Runners up:

2. Petco

3. Bones ’n’ Scones

4. Cold Nose Warm Heart

5. Exotic Birds

 

Best Annual Charity Event

Evening Under the Stars, by the AIDS Assistance Program

 

Runners up:

2. Desert AIDS Walk, by the Desert AIDS Project

3. Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards, by the Desert AIDS Project

4. Paint El Paseo Pink, by the Desert Cancer Foundation

5. Center Stage, by the LGBT Community Center of the Desert

 

Best Place to Gamble

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa

 

Runners up:

2. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

3. Spa Resort Casino

4. Spotlight 29

5. Augustine Casino

 

Best Local TV News

KESQ News Channel 3

 

Runners up:

2. CBS Local 2

3. KMIR Channel 6

 

Best Local TV News Personality

Patrick Evans, CBS Local 2

 

Runners up:

2. Gino LaMont, KMIR Channel 6

3. John White, KESQ News Channel 3

4. Brooke Beare, CBS Local 2

5. Thalia Hayden, KMIR Channel 6

 

Best Radio Station

Mix 100.5

 

Runners up:

2. Big 106 (KPLM)

3. KDES FM 98.5

4. TIE

KWXY FM 107.3

K-News 94.3

 

Best Local Radio Personality

Jeff Michaels, Big 106 (KPLM)

 

Runners up:

2. Bradley Ryan, Mix 100.5

3. Bill Feingold, K-News 94.3

4. Joey English, K-News 94.3

5. Dan McGrath, EZ-103

 

Best Bookstore

Barnes and Noble

 

Runners up:

2. Just Fabulous

3. Revivals

 

Best Retail Music/Video Store

Record Alley

 

2. Palm Springs Vinyl Records and Collectibles

3. Best Buy

4. Barnes and Noble

5. Video Depot

 

Best Comics/Games Shop

Desert Oasis Comics

 

Runners up:

2. Hoodoo

3. Barnes and Noble

 

Best Video Game Store

GameStop

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

Video Depot

Walmart

 

Best Hotel Pool

Ace Hotel and Swim Club

 

Runners up:

2. Riviera Palm Springs

3. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

4. Saguaro

5. Renaissance Palm Springs


Fashion and Style

Best Clothing Store (Locally Owned)

Bobby G’s

 

Runners up:

2. Glossy Boutique

3. R&R Men’s Wear

4. Fine Art of Design

5. Wil Stiles

 

Best Resale/Vintage Clothing

Revivals

 

Runners up:

2. Resale Therapy

3. Angel View

4. The POP Shop

5. Fine Art of Design

 

Best Furniture Store

Plummers

 

Runners up:

2. Ashley Furniture HomeStore

3. Marc Russell Interiors

4. Mor Furniture for Less

5. Erik’s Furniture

 

Best Antiques/Collectables Store

The Estate Sale Co.

 

Runners up:

2. Misty’s Consignments

3. Gypsyland

4. Pioneer Crossing Antiques

5. Sunny Dunes Antique Mall

 

Best Jeweler/Jewelry Store

El Paseo Jewelers

 

Runners up:

2. Smoke Tree Jewelers

3. Leeds and Son

4. Hephaestus Jewelry

5. ASC Jewelers

 

Best Hair Salon

J Russell! The Salon

 

Runners up:

2. Heads Up Hair Designs

3. Brien O’Brien Salon

4. Turquoise A Salon

5. Revive Salon Spa

 

Best Spa

DHS Spa Hotel

 

Runners up:

2. JW Marriott Desert Springs

3. Studio M

4. The Canyon Spa

5. Revive Salon Spa

 

Best Florist

My Little Flower Shop

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Florist

3. Rancho Mirage Florist

4. Jensen’s

5. Blooming Events

 

Best Tattoo Parlor

Strata Tattoo Lab

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

Adornment Piercing and Private Tattoo

Bloodline Tattoo

TG Tattoo

5. Flagship Tattoo

 

Best Eyeglass/Optical Retailer

Costco

 

Runners up:

2. Desert Vision Optometry

3. TIE

Elegant Eye Optometry

Oh La La de Paris Eyeware

5. Desert EyeCare Center


Outside!

Best Urban Landscaping

El Paseo

 

Runners up:

2. Downtown Palm Springs (general)

3. College of the Desert

 

Best Public Garden

The Living Desert

 

Runners up:

2. Sunnylands

3. Moorten Botanical Gardens

4. Ruth Hardy Park

5. El Paseo

 

Best Place for Bicycling

Palm Springs (general)

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta (general)

3. Frank Sinatra Drive

 

Best Recreation Area

Joshua Tree

 

Runners up:

2. Indian Canyons

3. Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness (Top of the Tram)

4. Salton Sea State Recreation Area

5. Tahquitz Canyon

 

Best Hike

Bump and Grind Trail

 

Runners up:

2. Indian Canyons

3. Mount San Jacinto

4. Tahquitz Canyon

5. Mission Creek Preserve

 

Best Park

Whitewater Park

 

Runners up:

2. Demuth Park

3. Ruth Hardy Park

4. Wellness Park

5. Dateland Park

 

Best Outdoor/Camping Gear Store

Big 5

 

Runners up:

2. Dick’s Sporting Goods

3. Off the Grid

4. Second Amendment Sports

5. Walmart

 

Best Bike Shop

Palm Springs Cyclery

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Desert Cyclery

3. BikeMan

 

Best Sporting Goods Store

Big 5

 

Runners up:

2. Dick’s Sporting Goods

3. Sports Authority

4. Lumpy’s

5. Pete Carlson’s Golf and Tennis

 

Best Public Golf Course

Desert Willow

 

Runners up:

2. Tahquitz Creek

3. Indian Wells

4. Eagle Falls

5. Escena


For the Kids

Best Playground

Palm Desert Civic Center Park

 

Runners up:

2. Demuth Park

3. Ruth Hardy Park

4. La Quinta Park

5. Whitewater Park

 

Best Place to Buy Toys

Mr. G’s for Kids

 

Runners up:

2. Toys “R” Us

3. Target

4. Walmart

5. Goodwill

 

Best Kids’ Clothing Store

Old Navy

 

Runners up:

2. Revivals

3. Janie and Jack

4. Goodwill

5. Justice

 

Best Restaurant for Kids

Chuck E. Cheese

 

Runners up:

2. Red Robin

3. Ruby’s

4. Islands

5. Dickie O’Neal’s

 

Best Place for Family Fun

Wet ’n’ Wild

 

Runners up:

TIE

2. Boomers!

Rock-N-Roll Mini Golf

4. Palm Desert Aquatic Center

5. Chuck E. Cheese

 

Best Place for a Birthday Party

Children’s Discovery Museum

 

Runners up:

2. Chuck E. Cheese

3. Boomers!


Food and Restaurants

Best Casual Eats

LuLu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge

3. Sherman’s

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Bongo Johnny’s

 

Best Caterer

LuLu/Acqua Pazza

 

Runners up:

2. Lynn Hammond

3. Fusion Flair

4. Dash and a Handful

5. Savoury’s

 

Best Diner

Elmer’s

 

Runners up:

2. Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge

3. Sunshine Café

4. Rick’s

5. John’s

 

Best Organic Food Store

Clark’s Nutrition and Natural Foods

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

Sprouts Farmers Market

Whole Foods

4. Nature’s Health Food and Café

5. Harvest Health Foods

 

Best Delicatessen

Sherman’s

 

Runners up:

2. Manhattan in the Desert

3. Appetito

 

Best Custom Cakes

Over the Rainbow

 

Runners up:

2. Pastry Swan Bakery

3. Sherman’s

4. Exquisite Desserts

5. Jensen’s

 

Best Desserts

Over the Rainbow

 

Runners up:

2. Sherman’s

3. Manhattan in the Desert

4. Crave (now Plate | Glass)

5. French Corner Café

 

Best Ice Cream/Shakes

Cold Stone Creamery

 

Runners up:

2. Great Shakes

3. Lappert’s Ice Cream

4. Lique at Fantasy Springs

5. Ben and Jerry’s

 

Best Date Shake

Shields Date Garden

 

Runners up:

2. Great Shakes

3. Hadley Fruit Orchards

4. Palm Greens Café

5. Lappert’s Ice Cream

 

Best Frozen Yogurt

TIE

Eddie’s Frozen Yogurt

Tutti Frutti

 

Runners up:

3. Beach House

4. Yogurt on Tap

5. Cactusberry + Frozen Treats

 

Best Bakery

Over the Rainbow

 

Runners up:

2. Aspen Mills

3. Frankie’s Old World Italian Bakery

4. Clementine Gourmet Marketplace and Café

5. TKB Bakery

 

Best Barbecue

Pappy and Harriet’s

 

Runners up:

2. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

3. Cowboy Way

4. Jackalope Ranch

5. Big Willie’s Catering

 

Best Burger

In-n-Out

 

Runners up:

2. Grill-A-Burger

3. Woody’s

4. Tyler’s

5. Smokin’ Burgers

 

Best Veggie Burger

Grill-A-Burger

 

Runners up:

TIE

2. Woody’s

Ruby’s Diner

4. Palm Greens Café

5. Nature’s Health Food and Café

 

Best Sandwich

Sherman’s

 

Runners up:

2. Manhattan in the Desert

3. The Sandwich Spot

4. Aspen Mills

5. L’Atelier Café

 

Best Pizza

Bill’s Pizza

 

Runners up:

2. Stuft Pizza

3. Piero’s PizzaVino

4. Giuseppe’s

5. Ciro’s

 

Best Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings

 

Runners up:

2. Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge

3. LuLu California Bistro

4. Bar

5. Village Pub

 

Best Bagels

New York Bagel and Deli

 

Runners up:

2. Panera Bread

3. Sherman’s

4. Townie Bagels

5. Bagel Bistro

 

Best Smoothies

Fresh Juice Bar

 

Runners up:

2. Koffi

3. Juice It Up

4. Jamba Juice

5. Luscious Lorraine’s

 

Best Buffet

Fresh Grill Buffet at Fantasy Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Grand Palms Buffet at Agua Caliente

3 TIE

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

Oasis Buffet at Spa Resort Casino

5. Potrero Canyon Buffet at Morongo

 

Best Coffee Shop for Coffee

Koffi

 

Runners up:

2. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

3. Old Town Coffee Company

4. Ernest Coffee

5. Ristretto

 

Best Coffee Shop for Hanging Out

Starbucks

 

Runners up:

2. Koffi

3. Ernest Coffee

4. Ristretto

5. Espresso Cielo

 

Best Tea

Koffi

 

Runners up:

2. Teavana

3. Ristretto

4. Old Town Coffee Company

5. Espresso Cielo

 

Best Breakfast

Elmer’s

 

Runners up:

2. Cheeky’s

3. Sunshine Café

4. Keedy’s Fountain Grill

5. Louise’s Pantry

 

Best California Cuisine

LuLu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. TRIO

3. Acqua Pazza California Bistro

4. Jake’s

5. POM—The Bistro at Fantasy Springs

 

Best Brunch

Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge

 

Runners up:

2. Tropicale

3. Pinocchio’s

4. Escena Lounge and Grill

5. Las Casuelas Nuevas

 

Best Chinese

Wang’s in the Desert

 

Runners up:

2. China Wok

3. JOY at Fantasy Springs

4. New Fortune

5. Supreme Dragon

 

Best Greek

Greek Islands Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. Nina’s Greek Cuisine

3. Miro’s Restaurant

 

Best French

Le Vallauris

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

Clementine Gourmet Marketplace and Café

Pomme Frite

4. La Brasserie

5. L’Atelier Café

 

Best Indian

Monsoon Indian Cuisine

 

Runners up:

2. India Oven

3. Naan House

 

Best Japanese

Shabu Shabu Zen

 

Runners up:

2. Kobe Japanese Steakhouse

3. Gyoro Gyoro

4. Otori Japanese Cuisine

5. No Da Te

 

Best Italian

Nicolino’s

 

Runners up:

2. Giuseppe’s

3. Il Corso

4. Johnny Costa’s Ristorante

5. Mimmo’s

 

Best Sushi

Wasabi

 

Runners up:

2. Gyoro Gyoro

3. Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar

4. Edoko Sushi

5. The Venue

 

Best Seafood

Fisherman’s Market and Grill

 

Runners up:

2. Ruben and Ozzy’s

3. Shanghai Reds

4. Pacifica Seafood Restaurant

5. Oceans Seafood Restaurant

 

Best Steaks/Steakhouse

LG’s Prime Steakhouse

 

Runners up:

2. Chop House

3. Mastro’s

4. The Bistro at Fantasy Springs

5. The Steakhouse at Spa Resort Casino

 

Best Thai

Thai Smile Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Thai Smile Rancho Mirage

3. Peppers Thai

4. Le Basil

5. Thai Kitchen 1

 

Best Vietnamese

Pho Vu

 

Runners up:

2. Pho 533

3. Bangkok Noodles

 

Best Vegetarian/Vegan

Native Foods Café

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Greens Café

3. Nature’s Health Food and Café

 

Best Upscale Restaurant

Spencer’s

 

Runners up:

2. Tropicale

3. Le Vallauris

4. Johannes

5. Figue Mediterranean Cuisine (no longer in business)

 

Best Outdoor Seating

Jackalope Ranch

 

Runners up:

2. Tropicale

3. Spencer’s

4. Las Casuelas Terraza

5. The Falls

 

Best Late-Night Restaurant

LuLu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. Village Pub

3. Bar

4. Alicante

5. King’s Highway at the Ace Hotel

 

Best Mexican

El Mirasol

 

Runners up:

2. El Gallito

3. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

4. La Tablita

5. Tlaquepaque

 

Best Salsa

Las Casuelas Nuevas

 

Runners up:

2. Rincon Norteno

3. Maracas

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Margaritas

 

Best Burrito

El Gallito

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

La Tablita

Santana’s

4. El Taco Asado

5. Jalisco Restaurant


Spirits and Nightlife

Best Beer Selection

Yard House

 

Runners up:

TIE

2. The Beer Hunter

Eureka!

4. Village Pub

5. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

 

Best Local Brewery

TIE

Coachella Valley Brewing Co.

La Quinta Brewing Co.

 

Runner up:

3. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

 

Best Place to Play Pool/Billiards

TIE

Hunters

Palm Springs Lanes

 

Runners up:

3. Pappy and Harriet’s

4. The Beer Hunter

5. Sharky’s Family Billiards

 

Best Cocktail Menu

Bar

 

Runners up:

2. Purple Room

3. Eureka!

4. Zin American Bistro

5. Workshop Kitchen and Bar

 

Best Gay/Lesbian Bar/Club

Streetbar

 

Runners up:

2. Hunters

3. Toucan’s Tiki Lounge

4. Score

5. Digs

 

Best Happy Hour

Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge

 

Runners up:

2. LuLu California Bistro

3. TIE

Hunters

Stuft Pizza

5. Village Pub

 

Best Dive Bar

Neil’s Lounge

 

Runners up:

2. Bar

3. Score

4. Toucan’s Tiki Lounge

5. The Hood Bar and Pizza

 

Best Margarita

Las Casuelas Terraza

 

Runners up:

2. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

3. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

4. Maracas

5. Blue Coyote Grill

 

Best Martini

The Falls

 

Runners up:

2. Tropicale

3. Zin American Bistro

4. Copley’s

5. Workshop Kitchen and Bar

 

Best Nightclub

Hunters

 

Runners up:

2. Copa

3. LIT at Fantasy Springs

4. TIE

Schmidy’s Tavern

Village Pub

 

Best Sports Bar

Burgers and Beer

 

Runners up:

2. Yard House

3. The Beer Hunter

4. TIE

Tilted Kilt

Village Pub

 

Best Wine Bar

3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

12th Floor Cocktail Lounge and Wine Bar at Fantasy Springs

Zin American Bistro

4. Wine Bar Bistro

5. Fame Lounge

 

Best Wine/Liquor Store

Total Wine and More

 

Runners up:

2. BevMo!

3. 3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro

4. Fame Lounge

5. LQ Wine

 

Best Bar Ambiance

Tropicale

 

Runners up:

2. Bar

3. Melvyn’s

4. Schmidy’s Tavern

5. Copa


Staff Picks

Best Story From an Annual Festival

“The Moneymaker”

A woman who appears to be about 65 and who is here for the American Heat Bike Weekend event in downtown Palm Springs comes in to Crystal Fantasy and wants to use some tape, because her “moneymaker” is broken. I give her some packing tape, and she takes something out of her pocket she is trying to fix.

After a few moments, she says, “OK, I’ll see if it works”—and proceeds to swallow a foot-long (now-taped) all-beef hot dog down her throat; she then pulls it out of her mouth. The tape wasn’t really sticking, and all I had otherwise was some purple duct tape.

That seemed to do the job. She very professionally deep-throated the hot dog, thanked us and left.

—Joy Brown Meredith, as told to the Palm Springs Neighborhoods Group on Facebook, adapted with permission by Jimmy Boegle


Best Band Militia

Machin’

I first met David Macias of Machin’ for an interview at Starbucks in Desert Hot Springs, and I was rather surprised when he told me about what he called the “Machin’ Militia”—the band’s loyal fans who turn up for their shows.

Well, I’ve seen Machin’ perform several times over the last year—and I’m not surprised that the Machin’ Militia is growing rapidly.

Perhaps David’s military background explains his terminology. He was born in Mexico and completed two deployments to Iraq as a Navy corpsman. When he gets together with classically trained violinist Bri Cherry and upright-bass-player/accordionist Andy Gorrill, they make attention-grabbing music that combines Latin, hip-hop and rock sounds. Their sound is instantly recognizable wherever they go.

Crowds of all sorts adore Machin’. They have a weekly residency at the Purple Room in Palm Springs; they busk on street corners in various places while on tour. Wherever Machin’ is, people can’t help but clap or dance along when the group performs.

Machin’ is truly what the name means in Spanglish slang—supremely excellent.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Food and Drink Trend That’s Finally Arrived in the Valley

Craft Cocktails

Tucson, Ariz., the city in which I used to live, is the home of one of the leaders in the craft-cocktail revolution. Scott and Co.—a speakeasy-style bar that’s received national attention for its amazing and innovative drinks—was perhaps the place I missed the most when I moved to the desert several years ago.

Look at the Best Cocktail finalists here, and you’ll see why I used to miss Scott and Co. so damned much: When I first started making preparations to move here, four of the five finalists picked by our readers weren’t yet in existence.

Today, however, I don’t miss Scott and Co. all that much—because over the last couple years, the craft-cocktail revolution has belatedly arrived in the Coachella Valley. In addition to our readers’ five Best of Coachella Valley finalists (great picks, readers!), you can find fantastic hand-crafted beverages at locations all across the valley, from Indian Wells’ Vue Grille and Bar, to retro-tiki newcomers Tonga Hut and Bootlegger Tiki in downtown Palm Springs, to Citron at the Viceroy (pictured), also in Palm Springs.

Cheers, folks. The local craft-cocktail scene is getting better by the month.

—Jimmy Boegle


Best Local Social Trend

The Increasingly Busy Summer

Let’s face facts: The business and tourism cycle in the Coachella Valley will always have seasonal highs and lows. The power of the weather is undeniable: Temps in the 70s and 80s will always draw people to the valley during the winter, and temps in the 110s will always push people out during the summer.

However, that seasonality is beginning to lessen—just a little.

I live in downtown Palm Springs, and last summer, the streets near my home weren’t as lonely as they used to be in years past. In fact, on some summer weekend nights, Palm Canyon Drive foot traffic was even something approaching busy. (Not April busy, but still.) The reason? More people are starting to brave the toasty temps to come to the valley, thanks to great events like Splash House (which was so nice, they did it twice during the summer of 2014; pictured), fantastic deals (like those offered during Restaurant Week) and the realization that the slower summer pace here has its benefits. (No snowbirds on Highway 111?! YES!)

Can one argue that the Best Season here in the Coachella Valley is, in fact, the summer? No … we won’t go that far. But the summers here are certainly not as dead as they used to be—and that’s something worth celebrating.

—Jimmy Boegle

Photo credits: Elephant Car Wash/Rancho Super Car Wash courtesy of elephant-carwash.com. The Living Desert courtesy of Greater Palm Springs CVB. Machin’ courtesy of Chris Miller via Machin’ Facebook. Splash House by Guillermo Prieto/IROCKPHOTOS.NET.

Published in Readers' Picks

I first met Debra Ann Mumm and Ryan “Motel” Campbell in the weeks leading up to the party the Coachella Valley Independent threw last October to celebrate the launch of our monthly print edition.

Debra’s Venus Studios Art Supply sponsored the event at Clinic Bar and Lounge by donating a 10-by-5-foot canvas (and other materials), on which Campbell painted a gorgeous work of art during the party. (The painting was then donated to the LGBT Community Center of the Desert for the nonprofit’s Center Stage silent auction.)

To say I was impressed by both Mumm and Campbell would be an understatement: They always display an intense passion for the Coachella Valley, its art and its artists.

That’s why I was not at all surprised when Mumm announced she and Campbell were raising funds for PLANet Art Palm Springs (www.exhibitps.com), a project to bring in four renowned muralists in early April to create four murals on and around downtown Palm Springs’ Arenas Road.

From what I know of Mumm and Campbell, I was sure they’d dot their I’s and cross their T’s when it came to planning, permits and permissions. Sure enough, they got a thumbs-up from the city’s Public Arts Commission, as well as all of the needed permissions from the property owners along Arenas Road. Since the city of Palm Springs has no law regulating murals—at least that Mumm or anyone else to whom the Independent has spoken can find—it seemed like clear sailing for PLANet Art.

Such was not the case: As the PLANET Art artists began to paint on the weekend of April 4, police showed up and reportedly threatened to arrest them if they didn’t stop.

Brian Blueskye has a comprehensive report that we posted online yesterday, and will be our May print-edition cover story. That issue will hit streets next week.

There is some good news coming out of this mess: In May, the Palm Springs City Council is slated to take up the mural matter, and will hopefully develop a policy and procedures to prevent such problems from happening in the future. (We’ll definitely keep everyone posted on what happens.)

But even if the city of Palm Springs gets its act together in May, that does not excuse the city for what happened to Mumm, Campbell and the other PLANet Art participants in April. Unless there is some law or statute that everyone is missing, the city officials who had a role in stopping PLANet Art—costing Mumm and Campbell no small amount of money—should be ashamed. If there’s no law regulating murals on the books, and Mumm and company did everything possible to get proper permission—including getting an endorsement from a city commission—then what they did is legal. Period.

People like Mumm and Campbell, who are stepping up and trying to make our community a more beautiful, culturally aware place, should be celebrated, not threatened with arrest. This seems like common sense doesn’t it? Alas, the city of Palm Springs was lacking any and all sense when it shut down PLANet Art.

Published in Editor's Note

The weekend of April 5 and 6 was going to be big for Debra Ann Mumm and local lovers of public art.

The owner of Venus Studios Art Supply had joined renowned local muralist Ryan“Motel” Campbell to launch PLANet Art Palm Springs. The project brought four renowned mural artists to downtown Palm Springs’ Arenas Road area to paint four large-scale murals.

Proper funds had been raised; the city’s Public Arts Commission had even endorsed the week long project. Everything was ready to go.

Except it wasn’t.

As the artists started to paint, the police showed up and told Mumm and Campbell that their project was not authorized—it was illegal. Police reportedly threatened arrests if the artists continued to paint.

Campbell took to Facebook and other social media to vent his frustration. He even posted a picture of the police arriving and shutting down the project.

“ART IS NOT A CRIME,” Campbell wrote.


Today, out-of-place white paint can be found along the edges of some of the walls where the murals were intended to be—Lulu California Bistro, Eddie’s Frozen Yogurt, Clinic and StreetBar—illustrating the sudden stoppage of the project.

“I wish I could explain what exactly happened,” Mumm said. “The news articles that came out about it didn’t say a lot, because there wasn’t a lot of explanation for the actions the city took. We showed up to paint, and the police came and said they were told to cite us if we began to work.

“It came as a bit of a surprise to us. We had followed all the procedures that we had to follow for the area we were painting in. There were no permits needed for that area as far as using the sidewalk and everything like that.”

However, Palm Springs City Manager David Ready told the Independent that what Mumm and Campbell had planned was not allowed—despite the endorsement of the city’s Public Arts Commission.

“Currently, the city does not allow murals,” Ready said, adding that the Public Arts Commission lacks the authority to approve mural projects on its own. “However, the City Council had asked to create a policy that would allow murals. The Arts Commission looked at it, and the Planning Commission is currently looking at it, and the City Council will consider it on May 7.”

Mumm said she’s seen no law or ordinance prohibiting murals in Palm Springs.

“There aren’t any procedures for murals in Palm Springs,” Mumm said. “Because there are no procedures, they are taking it from the standpoint that murals aren’t allowed.

“I’m not sure exactly what happened. It was very clear about the dates we were doing this and moving forward, and that there was nothing in the city language that prevented us from doing that.”

Ready also said that property owners did not have proper permits for the murals.

“They never received a permit from the city,” Ready said. “The property owners did not receive or request any approvals.”

Mumm responded that her group did everything possible to get all the proper approvals.

"We thought we only needed use permits for the sidewalks, because all of Arenas is private, and the Arts Commission approved the project."

The confusion has cost Mumm and Campbell. The project featured out-of-town artists for whom Mumm had made accommodations; it was funded, in part, by locals to bring more arts and culture into the city of Palm Springs. (Mumm and Campbell are still raising funds, by the way.)

Mumm said she hopes a fair policy will be put in place on May 7.

“At this point, we’ve created a lot of public support,” Mumm said. “It’s clear that the city needs to move forward in making a procedure, because the public is very anxious for this project to move forward. At least we’ve created that dialogue.”

One of the artists included in the project is Los Angeles painter Saber, described by The Washington Post as one of the most respected artists in the field of murals. (The others are APEX, Jeff Soto and Chad Hasegawa.) Saber went with Mumm to the Public Arts Commission meeting after the project was halted.

“(Saber) was instrumental in helping the city of Los Angeles develop their mural policy,” Mumm said. “We brought copies of the Los Angeles city mural policy to maybe try and help them develop some kind of program.”

Mumm said the plan is to continue work once the city enacts a mural policy and approves the project.

“We’re still on board,” Mumm said. “The artists came here to paint, and they still want to paint, so we’re just going to continue to move forward. It’s just an extreme delay. … At the very least, it’s created the dialogue and created the conversation, especially after the illegal mural activity.”


“Illegal mural activity” is a reference to the mural that James Haunt painted at Stewart Fine Art, 2481 N. Palm Canyon Drive, and the mural at Bar, 340 N. Palm Canyon Drive, painted by Fin DAC and Angelina Christina. There was no attempt for the creators of these murals to get city approval, according to Palm Springs city officials.

“It’s my understanding from the Public Arts Commission meeting that they’ll develop the policy, and once the policy is developed, Bar’s and James Haunt’s mural will both have to go through that procedure,” Mumm said. “They’ll make sure they’re compliant with the newly formed ordinances, and it’s clear that there will be no grandfathering of existing murals. That’s the language that I heard at the meeting. But again, the policy hasn’t been developed yet.”

Mumm said the mural issue is getting caught up in the ongoing conversation about the nature of Palm Springs—and what belongs and doesn’t belong.

“The problem with art is not everyone is going to like it,” Mumm said. “Bar has a fairly controversial mural. It’s a little bit provocative. … What we were bringing to the plate was a little more palatable publicly. I’ve heard people say about the Bar mural that it looks like a strip club. We’re trying to bring internationally recognized, quality artists and experienced muralists to the valley. I love Angelina Christina’s work, but that particular piece (at Bar) got some attention, and maybe all the neighbors aren’t happy about it. There was no public forum for them to come out and say, ‘Oh, man. You can’t do that.’ There was no approval by the Public Arts Commission, either. Everyone just wants the opportunity to weigh in on the subject.”

She also points out that murals have been great for other cities.

“It has made such a big difference for Miami,” Mumm said. “They have the Art Basel event, which draws $500 million in revenue to the Miami area in one week. I know there have been a lot of surveys done that cultural tourism is beneficial. It’s beneficial for businesses. … If you keep doing it, there’s bound to be something for everybody.”

What about people who claim that murals don’t “belong” in Palm Springs?

“I grew up here, and I was born in Indio,” Mumm said. “I’ve seen a lot of changes to Palm Springs from the time when I was a teenager. … I see extreme value in preserving our history, and there’s a lot of significant architecture here. … But the new generation, there’s not a lot to attract them or newer businesses to the area. There’s a lot of clinging to the past, and there’s a certain part of that past that’s important. I’m a big fan and have a lot of respect for what Palm Springs stands for. I think this just adds to it. We’re not taking away from anything that is Palm Springs, but adding something new and creating a new dynamic that can be more than one-dimensional for Palm Springs. It doesn’t have to be just one thing.”

“Forever Marilyn,” the Seward Johnson statue that spent about two years at the intersection of Tahquitz Canyon Way and Palm Canyon Drive, was the subject of a debate over whether or not it was tasteful—or even art.

“I wasn’t a fan,” Mumm said. “But I’m a fan of what the statue did for the community. Everybody took pictures with the Marilyn. I’m a local, and I don’t like the Marilyn statue, but I have to admit: I have pictures of her on my cell phone.”

When asked whether murals are a good fit for the city, city manager Ready wouldn’t comment specifically, but he did say the city has noticed the potential.

“I think that’s why the City Council requested that we bring forth a policy on murals,” Ready said, “because they recognize murals could certainly have a place in Palm Springs.”

Mumm said that murals are also a good source of graffiti prevention.

“We’ve been invited to bring our program to Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Indio, and even Indian Wells is even interested in looking at some murals,” Mumm said. “They realize the potential for what we’re offering. It is a graffiti deterrent.

“I know if (someone) went up and tagged on a Saber mural, (the tagger) wouldn’t last long,” she said, laughing. “There is a lot of respect even in that culture for significant work like that. You do not tag on a mural unless you’re an idiot, and your whole community around you knows you’re an idiot.”

Published in Local Issues