CVIndependent

Sun12152019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Every year, when late August rolls around, and we start the first round of Best of Coachella Valley voting, the results announcement seems so far away.

Yet … the next three months fly by—and while the time is flying, a lot of work is being done.

Primary, that work is being done by you, the amazing readers of the Independent. To start, you tackle that first-round ballot—including almost 130 categories and NO pre-selected finalists, just a blank field to fill in next to each category.

After that goes on for several weeks, we here at the Independent get to work, and we tabulate all those first-round ballots to determine who you picked as our finalists. Then, in late September comes the announcement of each category’s three to six finalists (five in most cases)—and the start of the final round of voting. After four weeks of that, we here at the Independent check the results and begin putting together our special Best of Coachella Valley print edition, as well as this online version.

We say it every year, but it’s worth repeating: Man, you readers are good. Yeah, other publications and websites here in the Coachella Valley do readers’ polls—but the slate of winners and finalists you Independent readers come up with is so much better than the rest, partially because of how we do our polling (i.e., asking readers to vote just once in each round, to lessen the ballot-box-stuffing), but mostly because you, our readers, are smart and community-minded. This is a fantastically diverse, valley-wide selection of finalists and winners.

So, please join us to celebrate at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 18, at Copa Nightclub—again your selection this year as Best Nightclub—at 244 E. Amado Road, in Palm Springs, for the Best of Coachella Valley Awards Party. All of the winners present will receive certificates and have an opportunity to say thanks. Plus, we may have several surprises in store for everyone. I hope to see you there.

Congratulations to all of the winners and finalists … and welcome to the Best of Coachella Valley 2019-2020!

—Jimmy Boegle, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Arts

 

Best Art Gallery

TIE

CODA Gallery

Shag

 

Runners up:

3. Heather James Fine Art

4. Melissa Morgan Fine Art

5. Michael Weems Collection

 

Best Indoor Venue

McCallum Theatre

 

Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. The Show at Agua Caliente

4. Fantasy Springs Special Events Center

5. The Hood Bar and Pizza

 

Best Outdoor Venue

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

 

Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. Fantasy Springs Rock Yard

4. Empire Polo Club

5. Rancho Mirage Amphitheater

 

Best Local Arts Group/Organization

Palm Springs Art Museum

 

Runners up:

2. McCallum Theatre

3. Desert Rose Playhouse

4. CREATE Center for the Arts

5. Coachella Valley Symphony

 

Best Local Band

Giselle Woo and The Night Owls

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

The Flusters

Ocho Ojos

4. Avenida Music

5. Captain Ghost

 

Best Local DJ

DJ Galaxy

 

Runners up:

2. Alf Alpha

3. Alex Harrington

4. DJ Baz/Barry Martin

5. DJ Mr. D/Joe De Hoyos

 

Best Local Musician (Individual)

Jesika von Rabbit

 

Runners up:

2. Giselle Woo

3. Doug Van Sant

4. Courtney Chambers

5. Krystofer Do

 

Best Local Visual Artist

Adam Enrique Rodriguez

 

Runners up:

2. Shag

3. Sofia Enriquez

4. Chris Sanchez

5. Cristopher Cichocki

 

Best Movie Theater

Century La Quinta and XD

 

Runners up:

2. Mary Pickford Is D’Place

3. Camelot Theatres at the Palm Springs Cultural Center

4. Century Theatres at The River and XD

5. Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 and IMAX

 

Best Museum

Palm Springs Art Museum

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

Palm Springs Air Museum

Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert

4. Coachella Valley History Museum

 

Best Producing Theater Company

Palm Canyon Theatre

 

Runners up:

2. Coachella Valley Repertory

3. Desert Rose Playhouse

4. Desert Theatreworks

5. Desert Ensemble Theatre Company

6. Dezart Performs


Life in the Valley

 

Best Local Activist/Advocacy Group/Charity

TIE

Desert AIDS Project

Palm Springs Animal Shelter

 

Runners up:

3. Boys and Girls Clubs of Coachella Valley

4. Coachella Valley Rescue Mission

5. Shelter From the Storm

 

Best Gym

EOS Fitness

 

Runners up:

2. 24 Hour Fitness

3. World Gym

4. In-Shape

 

Best Yoga

Urban Yoga

 

Runners up:

2. Bikram Yoga Plus

3. Yoga Center Palm Desert

4. Power Yoga Palm Springs

5. Yoga Central

 

Best Bowling Alley

Fantasy Lanes Bowling

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Lanes

3. Canyon Lanes at Morongo

 

Best Sex Toy Shop

Skitzo Kitty

 

Runners up:

2. Not So Innocent

3. Gear Leather and Fetish

4. Mischief Cards and Gifts

 

Best Auto Repair

Exotic Car Service

 

Runners up:

2. A.G. Auto Care

3. Kennard’s Automotive

4. TIE

Cam Stone’s Automotive

Singh’s Automotive Repair

 

Best Car Wash

Quick Quack Car Wash

 

Runners up:

2. Elephant Car Wash

3. Executive Car Wash

4. Airport Quick Car Wash

5. Desert 100 Percent Hand Car Wash

 

Best Plant Nursery

Moller’s Garden Center

 

Runners up:

2. Moorten Botanical Garden

3. Vintage Nursery

4. Lotus Garden Center

5. Bob Williams Nursery

6. Sky Nursery

 

Best Pet Supplies

Bones-N-Scones

 

Runners up:

2. Petco

3. PetSmart

4. Pet Oasis

5. PoshPetCare

 

Best Annual Charity Event

Palm Springs Pride

 

Runners up:

2. Concert for Autism

3. McCallum Theatre Annual Gala

4. Red Dress/Dress Red (LGBT Community Center of the Desert)

5. Evening Under the Stars (AAP-Food Samaritans)

6. Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards (Desert AIDS Project)

 

Best Place to Gamble

Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa Rancho Mirage

3. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa Palm Springs (Spa Resort Casino)

4. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

5. Spotlight 29

 

Best Local TV News

KESQ News Channel 3

 

Runners up:

2. KMIR Channel 6/NBC Palm Springs

3. CBS Local 2

 

Best Local TV News Personality

Bryan Gallo, KMIR Channel 6/NBC Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Karen Devine, KESQ News Channel 3

3. Patrick Evans, CBS Local 2

4. Brooke Beare, KESQ News Channel 3

5. Jeff Stahl, KESQ News Channel 3

 

Best Radio Station

KGAY 106.5

 

Runners up:

2. 93.7 KCLB

3. Jammin’ 99.5

4. Mix 100.5

5. 107.3 Mod FM

 

Best Local Radio Personality

Bradley Ryan, Mix 100.5

 

Runners up:

2. John Taylor, KGAY 106.5

3. Bill Feingold, KNews 94.3 FM/104.7

4. Don Wardell, 107.3 Mod FM

 

Best Retail Music/Video

Palm Springs Vinyl Records and Collectibles

 

Runners up:

2. Record Alley

3. Guitar Center

4. Music Heals

 

Best Comics/Games Shop

Desert Oasis Comics

 

Runners up:

2. Game Stop

3. Comic Asylum

 

Best Hotel Pool

Ace Hotel and Swim Club

 

Runners up:

2. The Saguaro Palm Springs

3. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

4. Renaissance Palm Springs

5. Kimpton Rowan

 

Best Indoor Fun/Activity

Escape Room Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Get Air Trampoline Park

3. Glitch Palm Springs

4. Desert Rocks Indoor Climbing Gym

 

Best Marijuana Dispensary

Joy of Life Wellness Center

 

Runners up:

2. The Leaf El Paseo

3. Atomic Budz

4. Palm Springs Safe Access

5. Mother Earth’s Farmacy

 


Valley Professionals

 

Best Doctor

Dr. Maria Gopez

 

Runners up:

2. Dr. Bruce Ferguson

3. Gennady “Henry” Nosovitsky, PA

4. Dr. David Morris

5. Dr. Michael Jardula

 

Best Eye Care

Milauskas Eye Institute

 

Runners up:

2. Dr. David Esquibel (Desert Vision)

3. Dr. Greg Evans (Evans Eyecare)

4. Dr. Wallace Goldban (Desert Ophthalmology)

5. Dr. John K. Schofield

 

Best Dentist/Orthodontist

Dr. Scott Shepherd (Palm Springs Family and Cosmetic Dentistry)

 

Runners up:

2. Hospitality Dental and Orthodontics

3. Dr. Frank Hernandez (Hernandez Dental)

4. Dr. Gerald Chang

5. Vineyard Family Dental Office

 

Best Plastic Surgeon

Dr. Mark Sofonio

 

Runners up:

2. Dr. Timothy Jochen

3. Dr. Scott Aaronson

4. Dr. Bruce Chisholm

 

Best Attorney

Walter Clark

 

Runners up:

2. Barbara Barrett

3. Christopher Heritage

4. Brad Faber

5. Michael Knighten

 

Best Air Conditioning Service

Comfort Air

 

Runners up:

2. Timo’s Air Conditioning and Heating

3. Esser Air Conditioning and Heating

4. General Air Conditioning

5. Simmons Air

 

Best Personal Trainer

Jaime Jimenez

 

Runners up:

2. Ryann McMillon

3. Brian Guzman

4. Brandon Wertz

 

Best Chiropractor

Dr. Gina Davis

 

Runners up:

2. Dr. Jim Cox

3. Dr. Susan Brennan

4. Dr. Navid Nazemi

5. Dr. Stephen Krupey

 

Best Real Estate Agent

TIE

Barbara Carpenter

Paul Zapala

 

Runners up:

3. Shann Carr

4. Paula LaBellarti

5. Jason Allen

 

Best Public Servant

Rep. Raul Ruiz

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs City Councilman Geoff Kors

3. Sheriff Chad Bianco

4. Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia

5. Palm Desert City Councilman Sabby Jonathan


Fashion and Style

 

Best Clothing Store (Locally Owned)

Trina Turk

 

Runners up:

2. R&R Menswear

3. Wil Stiles

4. Kimbals

5. Division

 

Best Local Resale/Vintage Clothing

Revivals

 

Runners up:

2. Angel View

3. Goodwill

4. Plato’s Closet

 

Best Furniture Store

Mathis Brothers

 

Runners up:

2. Revivals

3. H3K Design

4. Mor Furniture for Less

5. Bob’s Discount Furniture

 

Best Antiques/Collectables Store

Misty’s Consignments

 

Runners up:

2. Sunny Dunes Antiques Mall

3. The Estate Sale Co.

4. Victoria’s Attic

 

Best Jeweler/Jewelry Store

Tiffany and Co.

 

Runners up:

2. El Paseo Jewelers

3. Leeds and Son

4. The Fine Jewelry Bar

 

Best Hair Salon

J. Russell! The Salon

 

Runners up:

2. Heads Up Hair Designs

3. 18|8 Fine Men’s Salon

4. Turquoise Salon

5. Dishwater Blonde Salon

 

Best Spa in a Resort/Hotel

Sunstone Spa at Agua Caliente

 

Runners up:

2. Spa at the Ritz Carlton

3. Spa La Quinta at the La Quinta Resort

4. The Spa at Desert Springs (JW Marriott)

5. Agua Serena Spa at Hyatt Regency Indian Wells

 

Best Day Spa (Non-Resort/Hotel)

Massage Envy

 

Runners up:

2. Studio M Salon and Spa

3. Bliss Chakra Spa

 

Best Florist

My Little Flower Shop

 

Runners up:

2. Indio Florist

3. Jensen’s Foods

4. Cathedral City Floral Designs

5. Vaso Bello Celebrations

 

Best Tattoo Parlor

Anarchy and Ink Tattoo

 

Runners up:

2. Bloodline Tattoo and Body Piercing

3. Blue Rose Tattoo

4. Adornment Piercing and Private Tattoo

5. Strata Tattoo Lab

 

Best Eyeglass/Optical Retailer

Costco

 

Runners up:

2. Desert Vision Optometry

3. Ooh La La De Paris Eyewear

4. LensCrafters

5. One Price Optical


Outside!

 

Best Public Garden

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

 

Runners up:

2. Sunnylands

3. TIE

Moorten Botanical Garden

Palm Desert Civic Center Park

5. Wellness Park at Ruth Hardy Park

 

Best Place for Bicycling

CV Link

 

Runners up:

2. Joshua Tree

3. Bear Creek Path (La Quinta)

4. Tahquitz Creek Loop

 

Best Recreation Area

Joshua Tree

 

Runners up:

2. Whitewater Preserve

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

4. Palm Desert Civic Center Park

5. Lake Cahuilla Recreation Area

 

Best Hike

Bump and Grind Trail

 

Runners up:

2. Tahquitz Canyon Trail

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

4. Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve

5. The Cross Trail Loop

 

Best Park

Palm Desert Civic Center Park

 

Runners up:

2. Ruth Hardy Park

3. La Quinta Civic Center Park

4. Demuth Park

5. Sunrise Park

 

Best Outdoor/Camping Gear Store

Big 5 Sporting Goods

 

Runners up:

2. Dick’s Sporting Goods

3. Yellow Mart

4. Nomad Ventures

 

Best Bike Shop

Palm Springs/Palm Desert Cyclery

 

Runners up:

2. Tri-A-Bike

3. Joel’s Bicycle Shop

4. BikeMan

 

Best Sporting Goods

Big 5 Sporting Goods

 

Runners up:

2. Dick’s Sporting Goods

3. Yellow Mart

4. Pete Carlson’s Golf and Tennis

 

Best Public Golf Course

Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort

 

Runners up

2. Desert Willow Golf Resort

3. Eagle Falls Golf Course

4. Classic Club Golf

5. Mission Lakes Country Club

 


For the Kids

 

Best Playground

Palm Desert Civic Center Park

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Civic Center Park

3. Demuth Park

4. Ruth Hardy Park

 

Best Place to Buy Toys

Mr. G’s Toys and Expressions

 

Runners up:

2. Target

3. Walmart

4. JadaBug’s Kids Boutique

 

Best Kids’ Clothing Store

Target

 

Runners up:

2. Old Navy

3. JadaBug’s Kids Boutique

4. Carter’s

5. The Children’s Place

 

Best Restaurant for Kids

Chuck E. Cheese’s

 

Runners up:

2. Red Robin

3. Old Spaghetti Factory

4. Shakey’s Pizza

5. Billy Q’s

 

Best Place for Family Fun

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

 

Runners up:

2. Boomers

3. Escape Room Palm Springs

4. Get Air Trampoline Park

5. Chuck E. Cheese’s

 

Best Place for a Birthday Party

Fantasy Lanes Bowling Alley

 

Runners up:

2. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

3. Get Air Trampoline Park

4. Chuck E. Cheese’s

5. Shakey’s Pizza


Food and Restaurants

 

Best Casual Eats

TIE

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

Lulu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

3. Bongo Johnny’s

4. Kitchen 86 + Bar

5. Billy Q’s

 

Best Caterer

Lulu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge

3. Dash and a Handful

4. Lynn Hammond

5. Fusion Flair

 

Best Diner

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Bongo Johnny’s

3. Keedy’s Fountain Grill

4. Rick’s Restaurant

5. John’s Restaurant

 

Best Organic Food Store

Sprouts Farmers Market

 

Runners up:

2. Clark’s Nutrition and Natural Foods

3. Whole Foods

4. Nature’s Health Food and Cafe

5. Harvest Health Foods

 

Best Delicatessen

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

 

Runners up:

2. TKB Bakery and Deli

3. Real Italian Deli

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Bristol Farms

 

Best Custom Cakes

Over the Rainbow

 

Runners up:

2. Nothing Bundt Cakes

3. Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

4. Pastry Swan Bakery

5. Jensen’s Foods

 

Best Desserts

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

 

Runners up:

2. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

3. Nothing Bundt Cakes

4. Over the Rainbow

5. Billy Reed’s

6. Jensen’s Foods

 

Best Ice Cream/Shakes

Great Shakes

 

Runners up:

2. Brandini Toffee

3. Lappert’s Ice Cream

4. Coco Freeze

5. Kreem

 

Best Date Shake

Shields Date Garden

 

Runners up:

2. Hadley’s

3. Great Shakes

4. Oasis Date Gardens

5. Windmill Market

 

Best Frozen Yogurt

Yogurtland

 

Runners up:

2. Jus Chillin’

3. Tutti Frutti

4. Beach House

 

Best Bakery

Townie Bagels, Bakery and Café

 

Runners up:

2. TKB Bakery and Deli

3. Aspen Mills

4. Frankie’s Italian Bakery, Café and Supper Club

5. Carousel Bakery

 

Best Barbecue

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

 

Runners up:

2. Smoke Tree BBQ

3. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

4. Jackalope Ranch

5. Zobo and Meester’s

 

Best Burger

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Tyler’s Burgers

3. Smokin’ Burgers

4. Bongo Johnny’s

5. Tony’s Burgers

 

Best Veggie Burger

Native Foods Café

 

Runners up:

2. Lulu California Bistro

3. Bongo Johnny’s

4. Palm Greens Café

5. Grand Central Palm Springs

 

Best Sandwich

TKB Bakery and Deli

 

Runners up:

2. The Sandwich Spot

3. Manhattan in the Desert

4. Bongo Johnny’s

5. The Lunchbox

6. Billy Q’s

 

Best Pizza

Bill’s Pizza

 

Runners up:

2. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

3. Blaze Pizza

4. Upper Crust Pizza

5. Billy Q’s

 

Best Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings

 

Runners up:

2. Wingstop

3. Bongo Johnny’s

4. Jackalope Ranch

5. Billy Q’s

 

Best Bagels

Townie Bagels, Bakery and Café

 

Runners up:

2. Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

3. Panera Bread

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Bristol Farms

 

Best Smoothies

Fresh Juice Bar

 

Runners up:

2. Jamba Juice

3. Koffi

4. Coco Freeze

5. Big Juice Bar

 

Best Buffet

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Grand Palms Buffet at Agua Caliente

3. Fresh Grill Buffet at Fantast Springs

4. Emperor Buffet

5. Potrero Canyon Buffet at Morongo

 

Best Local Coffee Roaster

Koffi

 

Runners up:

2. Joshua Tree Coffee Company

3. Coachella Valley Coffee Company

 

Best Coffee Shop

Koffi

 

Runners up:

2. Gre Coffeehouse and Art Gallery

3. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

4. IW Coffee

5. Townie Bagels, Bakery and Café

 

Best Tea

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

 

Runners up:

2. Koffi

3. Grand Central Palm Springs

4. Starbucks

 

Best California Cuisine

Lulu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. Spencer’s Restaurant

3. POM California Cuisine at Fantasy Springs

4. Acqua California Bistro

5. Bellatrix at the Classic Club

 

Best Breakfast

TIE

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

Wilma and Frieda’s

 

Runners up:

3. Elmer’s

4. Broken Yolk Café

5. Bongo Johnny’s

6. Spencer’s Restaurant

 

Best Brunch

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Spencer’s Restaurant

3. The Tropicale

4. Lulu California Bistro

5. Bongo Johnny’s

 

Best Chinese

P.F. Chang’s

 

Runners up:

2. JOY at Fantasy Springs

3. Palm Tree Palace

4. New Fortune Asian Cuisine

5. Soul of China

 

Best Greek

Evzin Mediterranean Cuisine

 

Runners up:

2. Athena Gyro

3. Nina’s Greek Cuisine

4. Koutouki Greek Estiatorio

5. Yianni’s Taverna

 

Best French

Le Vallauris Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. French Corner Cafe

3. L’Atelier Café

4. Cuistot Restaurant

5. Si Bon

 

Best Indian

Monsoon Indian Cuisine

 

Runners up:

2. India Oven

3. Sam’s Indian Food and Pizza

 

Best Italian

Mario’s Italian Café

 

Runners up:

2. Ristorante Mamma Gina

3. Johnny Costa’s Ristorante

4. Il Giardino

5. Il Corso

 

Best Japanese

Kobe Japanese Steakhouse

 

Runners up:

2. Shabu Shabu Zen

3. Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar

4. Sandfish Sushi and Whiskey

5. Taka Shin

 

Best Korean

JOY at Fantasy Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Maru Korean B.B.Q. and Grill

3. Umami Seoul

4. You Grill Korean BBQ

 

Best Sushi

Dragon Sushi

 

Runners up:

2. Misaki Sushi and Griill

3. Sandfish Sushi and Whiskey

4. Joyce’s Sushi

5. Taka Shin

 

Best Seafood

Fisherman’s Market and Grill

 

Runners up:

2. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

3. Pacifica Seafood Restaurant

4. Mitch’s on El Paseo

5. Mariscoco's Culiacan

 

Best Steaks/Steakhouse

Ruth’s Chris Steak House

 

Runners up:

2. The Steakhouse at Agua Caliente

3. LG’s Prime Steakhouse

4. Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar

5. Outback Steakhouse

 

Best Thai

Thai Smile Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. My Thai

3. Pepper’s Thai Cuisine

4. Thai House

5. Le Basil

 

Best Vietnamese

Pho Vu

 

Runners up:

2. 533 Viet Fusion

3. Rooster and the Pig

4. JOY at Fantasy Springs

5. Pho of the Desert

 

Best Vegetarian/Vegan

Chef Tanya’s Kitchen

 

Runners up:

2. Native Foods Café

3. Palm Greens Café

4. Luscious Lorraine’s

5. The Sandbox Kitchen

 

Best Upscale Dining

Spencer’s Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge

3. The Tropicale

4. Johannes

5. Jillian’s

 

Best Outdoor Seating

The Tropicale

 

Runners up:

2. Spencer’s Restaurant

3. Jackalope Ranch

4. Bongo Johnny’s

5. Bellatrix at the Classic Club

 

Best Late-Night Restaurant

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. The Tropicale

3. Bongo Johnny’s

4. King’s Highway at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club

5. Paul Bar/Food

 

Best Mexican

Las Casuelas Terraza

 

Runners up:

2. Pueblo Viejo Grill

3. Tac/Quila

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. La Tablita

 

Best Salsa

Rincon Norteño

 

Runners up:

2. Las Casuelas Terraza

3. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Tac/Quila

 

Best Burrito

Las Casuelas Terraza

 

Runners up:

2. El Mirasol

3. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Loco Charlie’s

 


Spirits and Nightlife

 

Best Beer Selection

Yard House

 

Runners up:

2. Burgers and Beer

3. Draughtsman

4. The Beer Hunter

5. Eureka!

 

Best Local Brewery

Coachella Valley Brewing Co.

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Brewing Co.

3. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

4. Desert Beer Company

 

Best Place to Play Pool/Billiards

The Hood Bar and Pizza

 

Runners up:

2. Neil’s Lounge

3. The Beer Hunter

4. Henry’s Sports Bar and Grill

5. Bart Lounge

 

Best Cocktail Menu

TRIO Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. The Tropicale

3. Tonga Hut

4. Workshop Kitchen + Bar

5. Seymour’s

 

Best Craft Cocktails

Paul Bar/Food

 

Runners up:

2. Seymour’s

3. Truss and Twine

4. Libation Room

5. Del Rey at the Villa Royale

 

Best Gay/Lesbian Bar/Club

Hunters

 

Runners up:

2. Toucan’s Tiki Lounge

3. Blackbook

4. Chill Bar Palm Springs

5. The Roost

6. Streetbar

 

Best Happy Hour

La Quinta Cliffhouse

 

Runners up:

2. Lulu California Bistro

3. The Tropicale

4. TIE

Il Corso

Kitchen 86 + Bar

 

Best Dive Bar

The Hood Bar and Pizza

 

Runners up:

2. Tool Shed

3. Neil’s Lounge

4. Desert Fox

5. Club 5

 

Best Margarita

Las Casuelas Terraza

 

2. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

3. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

4. El Mirasol

5. Tac/Quila

 

Best Martini

The Tropicale

 

Runners up:

2. Lulu California Bistro

3. Bongo Johnny’s

4. TIE

Del Rey at the Villa Royale

Zin American Bistro

 

Best Nightclub

Copa Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Hunters

3. Chill Bar Palm Springs

4. Toucan’s Tiki Lounge

5. Bart Lounge

 

Best Sports Bar

The Beer Hunter

 

Runners up:

2. Big Rock Pub

3. AMP Sports Lounge

4. Revel Public House

5. Billy Q’s

6. Henry’s Sports Bar and Grill

 

Best Wine Bar

Zin American Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. V Wine Lounge

3. TIE

Dead or Alive

Twelve Cocktails Above at Fantasy Springs

5. La Fe Wine Bar

 

Best Wine/Liquor Store

Total Wine and More

 

Runners up:

2. BevMo!

3. Desert Wine Shop on 111

4. Bouschet

5. Larry’s Wine and Spirits

 

Best Bar Ambiance

The Tropicale

 

Runners up:

2. Paul Bar/Food

3. TRIO Restaurant

4. Stacy’s Palm Springs

5. Del Rey at the Villa Royale

Published in Readers' Picks

After meeting numerous famous and powerful people during almost 25 years in journalism, I’m rarely star-struck or intimidated these days.

In fact, it’s happened to me just twice since I’ve called the Coachella Valley home. The first time was when I met Joyce Bulifant—semi-regular on the classic Match Game back in the 1970s, and co-star of one of my favorite movies ever, Airplane.

The second time was when I met Barbara Keller.

For the life of me, I have no idea why I was starstruck when I met Joyce Bulifant—I love her, but I’ve been left unflummoxed by bigger stars before. But I do understand why I was intimidated by Barbara Keller, when I somehow found myself sitting next to her at an Equality California Awards host committee meeting: I knew I was in the presence of a person who was truly great.

Barbara Keller passed away at the age of 75 on Monday, April 15.

Barbara was as kind and welcoming as a person could be, but I was star-struck by her reputation, her gravitas, her works. I knew how many local nonprofits and charities she supported—with her money and a whole lot of her time. I’d heard tales about her extreme kindness from friends. And I’d known, by seeing her with my own eyes at various events (almost always with her fantastic husband, Jerry), how simply fabulous she was.

It’s common when someone well-known dies for them to be showered with exaggerated levels of praise and accolades. However, regarding Barbara Keller, there’s no exaggeration: She deserves each and every bit of the love and appreciation she’s received. She was truly a giant of the Coachella Valley. Her death is a huge loss to the community.

“This morning we lost our one and only Barbara Keller. The love she brought to the Desert AIDS Project family changed us forever,” said Desert AIDS Project CEO David Brinkman, in a statement on the day she passed away. “She had been our board’s leader, the Steve Chase’s chief and our clients and mission’s ultimate champion. Words fail to express the gratitude I have for having been the recipient of her friendship, love and mentorship. Barbara Keller equals humanitarian.”

My sincere sympathies go out to Jerry and the rest of her family, as well as her work family at Lulu California Bistro and Acqua California Bistro.

We’ll have more on the life of Barbara Keller in the Independent soon. In the meantime, I invite you to pick up the May 2019 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, hitting the streets this week. As always, thanks for reading.

Published in Editor's Note

When Senate Bill 239 took effect last year, it made knowingly spreading the HIV virus a misdemeanor rather than a felony.

Opponents of the bill, which was signed into law by former Gov. Jerry Brown, were furious, speculating it could lead to an increase in HIV transmissions. However, people on the front lines of the fight against HIV/AIDS said the new law was a much-needed step in the right direction, considering treatment and prevention methods have changed significantly since the AIDS epidemic began in 1981.

“If you criminalize HIV, it discourages people from getting tested,” said Carl Baker, the director of legal and legislative affairs for the Desert AIDS Project. “Under the old statute, if you didn’t know your status, you didn’t commit a crime (if you passed the HIV virus to someone else). It was better to be dumb and spread the disease than to be smart and prevent the disease.”

Samuel Garrett-Pate, the communications director for Equality California, said via e-mail that potentially criminalizing those with HIV proved to be bad public policy.

“HIV-specific criminal laws hurt rather than help,” Garrett-Pate said. “There is no evidence that laws targeting people living with HIV for criminal penalties actually reduce the number of new cases of HIV or improve public health in any way. In fact, research suggests that such laws may be a disincentive to testing and disclosure of one’s HIV status and a barrier to seeking care for people living with HIV. In addition, these laws may give HIV-negative people a false sense of security with respect to the health of their sexual partners, thereby encouraging riskier behaviors and more sexually transmitted infections. … HIV decriminalization encourages HIV testing, treatment and disclosure to sexual partners.”

Baker said only one group of people in recent years faced prosecution.

“The only real people who were prosecuted in the last 15 to 20 years were sex workers,” Baker said. “It wasn’t used for the everyday person; it was only people who were picked up for prostitution. That was the targeted audience. I can see the rationale, because if you’re in the sex industry, you’re going to spread it to a lot more people than Mr. Smith on the street.

“But way back in the ’80s, there were some bad actors. There was a male who was infected and was intentionally sleeping with women without telling them. There’s always that one bad actor.”

Garrett-Pate said the law was used to disproportionately target women and people of color.

“Overall, 800 people came into contact with the California criminal-justice system from 1988 to June 2014 either under an HIV-related law or under the misdemeanor exposure law, as it related to a person’s HIV-positive status,” Garrett-Pate wrote. “Black and Latino people made up two-thirds of the people who came into contact with the criminal-justice system based on their HIV status, even though just half of the population living with HIV/AIDS in California is black or Latino. Women made up 43 percent of those who came into contact with the criminal-justice system based on their HIV-positive status, even though just 13 percent of the HIV-positive population in California is women. … White men were significantly more likely to be released and not charged.”

Baker emphasized that testing and public-health awareness are the best ways to battle HIV—not criminalization.

“We want people to be tested and to go into treatment; then they are not infectious and are undetectable,” Baker said. “That’s our goal to ending this epidemic. The combination of Truvada and antiretrovirals keep the likelihood at 99.8 percent of the virus never being transferred. It’s as effective as using a condom. By having something on the books that discouraged people from finding out their status and pushing them underground, that was going to encourage more behaviors that will spread the virus.”

Baker said that despite the progress the Desert AIDS Project and other public-health groups have made in battling HIV, minority groups remain the most at risk.

“The spike in transmissions (has been) in the transgender population and in the minority populations in Riverside County that don’t identify as gay. They use the term ‘men having sex with men,’ because they could be married or have a one-off with another man, and they aren’t out,” Baker said. “That’s the issue, and those are the people we want to get tested, because they aren’t identifying as gay and think they don’t have anything to worry about. Those are the hardest people to get tested—and where the virus is blowing up.”

For information on free and confidential HIV testing, visit gettestedcoachellavalley.org.

Published in Local Issues

Darrell Tucci is the chief development officer for the Desert AIDS Project, and he spearheads D.A.P.’s annual Dining Out for Life fundraiser, taking place this year on Thursday, April 25.

“Last year, we challenged people to become part of the B.L.D. Club—to commit to having breakfast, lunch and dinner at Dining Out for Life restaurants,” Tucci said, adding that D.A.P. is issuing the same challenge this year.

I am proud to say I was part of last year’s B.L.D. Club … and then some. In fact, I went a little crazy (in a good way) last year during Dining Out for Life: I wound up dining—or, at the very least, buying a drink or a snack—at 11 different participants last year, starting with coffee and a scone at Ristretto, and ending my night with a Maker’s Mark and Coke at the Tool Shed.

A lot of people joined me in meeting D.AP.’s challenge, and then some: Due to the generosity of the 75 participating bars and restaurants, Dining Out for Life last year raised a whopping $280,000 for D.A.P.—$50,000 more than the year before.

If you’re unfamiliar with Dining Out for Life, here’s how it goes: Local bars and restaurants agree to donate at least 33 percent of their sales on Thursday, April 25, to D.A.P. It’s that simple. Really. While D.A.P. volunteers will be present at most of the participating venues during the day—offering “I Dined” stickers and giving people the opportunity to make extra donations if they’d like—all people need to do to help D.A.P. is dine and/or drink at one of the participating restaurants and bars.

Find a complete and constantly updated list of participants at www.diningoutforlife.com/city/greater-palm-springs.

Dining Out for Life is held on behalf of HIV/AIDS service organizations in 45 cities across North America on the last Thursday each April. Even though the Coachella Valley is one of the smallest markets—if not the smallest market—that participates, last year’s $280,000 was the second-largest amount raised in any city. Only Denver, which had three times as many restaurants participating, raised more money.

Why is Dining Out for Life so successful in the Coachella Valley?

“We have a secret sauce that’s a combination of a few important ingredients,” Tucci said. “First, the restaurateurs in our valley really embody our valley’s philanthropic nature.

“Second, this valley has been at the forefront of the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic since day one, and today’s inhabitants embody that. At Dining Out for Life, we see a dedication from attendees that’s almost like the dedication people have when going to vote.

“People wore that ‘I Dined’ sticker as a badge of honor, just like the ‘I Voted’ sticker on Election Day,” Tucci said about last year’s Dining Out for Life event. “We’d never ran out of stickers before.”

Tucci isn’t exaggerating when he touts the generosity of local restaurateurs; last year, the top three fundraising restaurants in North America—yes, the entire continent—were all located in Palm Springs: Spencer’s Restaurant, Lulu California Bistro and Trio Restaurant.

Then there are the smaller restaurants that give literally everything they have, and then some, on Dining Out for Life day. Tucci said he was amazed, for example, by the generosity of the Holiday House Palm Springs last year: Not only did the restaurant give 100 percent; the owner then matched that 100 percent donation. And at Rooster and the Pig, the restaurant gave 100 percent—and the staff donated all of their tips for the day, too. Other 100 percent participants last year included The Barn at Sparrows Lodge, Ristretto and—at 110 percent—Townie Bagels.

“All of these restaurants that participate, whether they’re giving 33 percent or 100 percent—not one of them is making money that day,” Tucci said.

This incredible generosity is needed more than ever by the Desert AIDS Project. While the origination remains one of the top HIV/AIDS service organizations in the world, D.A.P. is now also much more: As a Federally Qualified Health Center, anyone in need of primary medical care can walk in D.A.P.’s doors and become a client, getting access to doctors, prescriptions, dental care and behavior-health care. In fact, roughly half of D.A.P.’s clients today are not living with HIV.

Seeing as more than half of the Coachella Valley’s residents now live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, D.A.P. is struggling to make sure everyone who needs quality health care in the valley can get it. To meet the demand, D.A.P. is in the midst of a $20 million expansion, slated for completion in 2020, that will more than double the organization’s patient capacity. When the expansion is complete, D.A.P.’s 60,490-square-foot campus will be able to serve 8,000 patients, up from 3,900 in 2017. The dental clinic will be able to help 1,700 people, compared to 814 in 2017, while the behavioral-health-patient capacity will rise from 583 to 1,200.

Every dollar raised during Dining Out for Life makes a huge difference. As for the aforementioned scone and coffee at Ristretto I bought to kick off Dining Out for Life last year … with Ristretto giving 110 percent of that sale to D.A.P., that $8 purchase wound up paying for three safer-sex kits. I went to Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill for dinner with two friends; we spent $120, and with the restaurant giving 50 percent, $60 went to D.A.P. to pay for three free, confidential HIV tests. I dropped in and had a drink with a party of about a dozen or so friends, most of whom were dining there, at Zin American Bistro; seeing as Zin donated about 75 percent of that check, about $340 went to D.A.P.—enough to house a low-income client for a whole month.

Follow me via the Coachella Valley Independent’s Facebook page on Thursday, April 25, as I try to match or even surpass my 11 stops from last year—and join me in visiting as many Dining Out for Life participants as possible. After all, the Coachella Valley has a lot of work to do this year to match the giving of last year.

For more information, including a complete list of Dining Out for Life participants, visit www.diningoutforlife.com/city/greater-palm-springs. If you know of a restaurant that you’d like to see participate in Dining Out for Life, get information at www.desertaidsproject.org/2019-dining-out-for-life.

A sold-out crowd of more than 100 people enjoyed nine fantastic cocktails—all made with Ketel One Botanical vodka—at the Third Annual Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Championship, held Wednesday, Jan. 30, at Moxie Palm Springs.

Carlos Argumedo, of Farm, was declared the champion of the event, earning an amazing 92 points (out of 100 possible) on the judges’ scoresheets. The tally was close—three points separated first place from fourth place. Argumedo follows in the footsteps of 2018 winner Hunter Broggi, of Lulu California Bistro (who also participated in this year’s event), and 2016 winner Sherman Chan, of Trio Restaurant.

Trio’s Garrett Spicher was the Audience Choice winner.

Nine bartenders competed in the event, which sold out for the first time in its three-year history. Each competitor made tastes of their drinks for each attendee, before making full drinks for the judges: Ketel One’s Leslie Barclay; Brad Fuhr, of media sponsors Gay Desert Guide and KGAY 106.5 FM; and representatives of Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week’s beneficiaries: the Desert AIDS Project’s Darrell Tucci, and the LGBT Community Center of the Desert’s Alexis Ortega.

The championship is the highlight of Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week, a production of the Coachella Valley Independent. During the week, which continues through Saturday, Feb. 2, participating restaurants create a special drink for the week, or highlight an existing drink from their menus, and donate at least $2 from each drink sold during the week to the Desert AIDS Project and the LGBT Community Center of the Desert. A complete list of drinks and participants can be found at PSCraftCocktails.com.

Below is a collection of photos from the event, taken by the Independent’s Kevin Fitzgerald.

Published in Snapshot

On Feb. 9, Desert AIDS Project will be celebrating in a big way at its 25th Annual Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards gala.

To celebrate the silver anniversary edition of D.A.P.’s biggest fundraiser of the year, Barry Manilow will be performing a full concert. While virtually all of the attendees know about Barry Manilow, some of them may not know much about the man for whom the event is named—a man whose generosity is, in part, responsible for the success D.A.P. has had over the years.

Steve Barrett Chase, who passed away in 1994 at the age of 52—himself a victim of the AIDS epidemic—was a designer to the stars. His clients, according to the Los Angeles Times, included Rona Barrett, Dyan Cannon, Farrah Fawcett, Gene Hackman, Johnny Mathis and Joan Kroc, the owner of McDonald’s.

“He was a bigger-than-life character,” said Steve Kaufer, a friend of Chase’s who has been on the D.A.P. board of directors since 2007; Kaufer was also on the board from 1987-1997, and currently serves as the board president. “He was a very successful interior designer. I think his love for design and making things pretty started when he was really young in his life, and he pursued that.”

Chase came to Palm Springs to work with famed designer Arthur Elrod, and stayed in the Coachella Valley after Elrod died in a traffic accident in 1974.

“Steve was very talented and became very, very successful,” Kaufer said. “I had a subscription to Architectural Digest, and I think he was featured in Architectural Digest more than any other designer that I ever saw. 

“I always thought that maybe he had compromising pictures of (Architectural Digest editor) Paige Rense,” Kaufer said with a laugh. “In all seriousness, he was always in the magazine because his designs were literally all over the world. Of course, he designed in Palm Springs and in the desert area, but he designed internationally. He designed yacht interiors, airplane interiors—so he kind of did it all.”

Kaufer said Chase was someone who didn’t enjoy just sitting around.

“One of my early recollections is going over with a couple friends to his house, and everybody wound up playing croquet out on his lawn, and it was fun,” Kaufer said. “He was traveling. He was doing things. He was an avid jogger, and he was always very active.”

Kaufer said that when Chase became involved with D.A.P., one of the first things he did—not surprisingly—was lend his design talents to the fledgling organization.

“DAP started in 1984, and we had a small office, and then we moved to a facility on Vella Road in Palm Springs—but it was an industrial building,” Kaufer said. “I don’t know what it had been used for before we moved in, but it was pretty rough around the edges, and Steve became involved. He used his talents and his firm, and he also leaned on a lot of his vendors to donate services and products that could be used in his work at the DAP to make it look pretty. 

“He felt that, just because we were a charity, and we were dealing a lot of times with people who lived below the poverty level, we didn’t have to have an office that looked horrible. He wanted people who came in to have a nice environment in which to be in, to receive their care, and to work.”

In the 1980s and early 1990s, it was difficult to raise money for HIV- and AIDS-related service organizations like D.A.P., because the virus and disease such carried a huge stigma.

“It wasn’t popular to be a corporate sponsor of an AIDS program, and many people in the area of normal philanthropy didn’t look at AIDS as an area that they wanted to get involved in,” Kaufer said. “Steve recognized that, and he used his celebrity and his contacts with major stars and big people like Joan Kroc, and President and Mrs. (Gerald) Ford, to try to expand the giving that D.A.P. received from groups that we normally wouldn’t get funding from.”

Those contacts paid huge dividends, as did Chase’s personal generosity. Not only did Chase lend significant support to D.A.P.; he also gave major support to the organizations today known as The Living Desert and Gardens, and the Palm Springs Art Museum.

In the case of D.A.P., the organization Chase championed is now in the midst of its biggest period of expansion to date—a $20 million project, slated for completion in 2020, that will more than double the organization’s patient capacity. The expansion, called vision D.A.P. Vision 2020, is necessary in part because D.A.P. is now a Federally Qualified Health Center—meaning anyone in need of primary medical care can walk in D.A.P.’s doors and become a client. When the expansion is complete, D.A.P.’s 60,490-square-foot campus will be able to serve 8,000 patients, up from 3,900 in 2017. The dental clinic will be able to help 1,700 people, compared to 814 in 2017, while the behavioral-health-patient capacity will rise from 583 to 1,200.

I asked Kaufer what Steve Chase would think if he could see where D.A.P. stands today.

“He would be very proud—very pleased,” Kaufer said. “Steve was a big personality, and he did things in a big way, and he would be very pleased to see what was going on at Desert AIDS Project and the expansion of our mission to provide health care for not only people with HIV and AIDS, but a community that really needs quality health care, and has no other source for it. He’d be very proud. 

“He’d also probably start looking at the plans and saying, ‘No, we can’t have that wall there. We need to do this, and the lobby has to be a little bit different, and we need some different furniture,’ Kaufer added with a laugh. “He would want to put his mark on it, and ensure that it looked good, so that people, when they came there for treatment, would feel special.”

To donate to the D.A.P. Vision 2020 expansion, call Christopher Ruetz, D.A.P.’s Director of Major and Planned Giving, at 760-656-8450, or email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more information on Vision 2020, visit dapvision2020.org.

Desert AIDS Project has started construction on the largest expansion since it moved into its current campus in 1998—a $20 million project, slated for completion in 2020, that will more than double the organization’s patient capacity.

This news about the expansion, called D.A.P. Vision 2020, may make some people wonder: Why such a large expansion? And why now?

Darrell Tucci, Chief Development Officer for D.A.P., says one word can answer these queries: Need. Specifically, there’s a huge need for quality health-care services in the area—and D.A.P. is stepping in to fill that need.

“This expansion is vital, because more than half of our neighbors in the Coachella Valley live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level (or about $24,000 per year, per person), and many of those people live without access to quality health care,” Tucci said. “We will be able to serve more people, regardless of their HIV status, without compromising our original mission of ending the epidemic of HIV in the valley. We’re not exchanging one for the other.”

While helping men and women dealing with HIV and AIDS has always been at the core of D.A.P.’s mission, the organization today serves everyone and anyone in need of quality medical care, regardless of HIV status, because it is now a Federally Qualified Health Center. Anyone in need of primary medical care can walk in D.A.P.’s doors and become a client—getting access to doctors, prescriptions, dental care and behavior-health care. In fact, roughly half of D.A.P.’s clients today are not living with HIV.

With the existing facilities, D.A.P. is struggling to fill this massive need—hence the expansion, which includes purchasing the county health care building next door, and joining it with the current main D.A.P. building. When the expansion is complete, D.A.P.’s 60,490-square-foot campus will be able to serve 8,000 patients, up from 3,900 in 2017. The dental clinic will be able to help 1,700 people, compared to 814 in 2017, while the behavioral-health-patient capacity will rise from 583 to 1,200.

The expansion will also include a 76 percent increase in the number of apartment units for low-income individuals on the D.A.P. campus, from 80 to 140 units. There is currently a three-year waiting list for such housing.

While the scope of the current Desert AIDS Project expansion is unprecedented, the organization has a long history of adjusting to meet the needs of both its clients and the entire Coachella Valley:

• In 1994; D.A.P. opened a satellite office in Indio to offer HIV and hepatitis C testing; D.A.P. also offered, and continues to offer, intervention and case-management services to the east valley’s underserved, largely low-income and Latino communities via its Indio facility.

• In 2001, recognizing that many people living with HIV were suffering from nutritional challenges due to a lack of steady employment, D.A.P. opened the Morris and Lila Linsky Food Depot to provide healthy food, grocery-store vouchers and nutritional guidance to clients in need.

• Due to the lack of affordable housing for people living with HIV and other chronic conditions, D.A.P. in 2007 opened the Vista Sunrise Apartments on the D.A.P. campus, with the support of philanthropist Philip Caplin.

• The following year, D.A.P. opened the first HIV-specialty dental clinic in Riverside County, on the D.A.P. campus, later expanded by philanthropists Georgia and Gerald Fogelson.

• In 2012, Annette Bloch—who continues to be one of D.A.P.’s most generous supporters—provided the funding for D.A.P.’s Cancer Care Center, dedicated to HIV-related cancer research, screenings, treatment and prevention.

• Due in part to the fact that the Coachella Valley’s rate of HIV infection is more than twice the federal rate, D.A.P. in 2014 launched Get Tested Coachella Valley, the nation’s first nonprofit-led, region-wide initiative featuring HIV testing, prevention, education and linkage to care. More than 81,000 residents have been tested to date.

• Since a lack of access to sexual-wellness information was contributing to an increase in sexually transmitted infections in the area, D.A.P. in 2015 opened The Dock, a walk-in, no-appointment-needed clinic offering HIV and STI testing, as well as linkage to care, and access to PrEP—a medication which helps prevent HIV—and PEP, which helps people who have been exposed to HIV.

Construction on the $20 million expansion is under way due to the generosity of many local businesses and individuals; in fact, D.A.P. has received approximately $13.15 million in funding commitments so far. However, that means D.A.P. still needs to raise nearly $7 million in order to make the complete expansion a much-needed reality.

Tucci said it’s in the entire community’s best interests to support D.A.P.’s expansion.

“If you know people affected by HIV, you should support us as we continue to expand as the region’s largest service provider supporting those who live with HIV,” he said. “If you don’t feel like you’ve been directly affected by HIV, you should support us because of the 40,000 or so people in the Coachella Valley who are without a primary care physician, because we can offer many of those people a medical home.”

The time for the expansion is now, he said, since advances in medical care and support services have made it so people who live with HIV can not only survive, but thrive.

“Short of a cure, we can stop the spread of HIV completely by identifying everyone with HIV and getting them proper health care, including medications that make (their HIV) undetectable and therefore not infectious,” Tucci said.

For more information, or to donate to the D.A.P. Vision 2020 expansion, call Christopher Ruetz, D.A.P.’s Director of Major and Planned Giving, at 760-656-8450, or email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more information, visit dapvision2020.org.

The Desert AIDS Project wants to let Coachella Valley residents know about the dangers of hepatitis C—especially baby boomers, who may have been carrying the now-curable disease unknowingly for decades.

Jose De La Cruz is a community health educator for DAP. He explained why people from one particular demographic—those born between 1945 and 1965—are especially at risk for the potentially fatal disease, which can cause liver failure and liver cancer.

“The test (for hepatitis C) didn’t really become available until 1991 or 1992,” De La Cruz said. “So you’re talking about anybody (being at risk) who received a blood transfusion before then. … You also have people who were going off to the Vietnam War; there were casualties, and universal precaution wasn’t even developed yet. There was the revolution of IV drug users during the 1960s. Before HIV came around, a lot of tattoo parlors didn’t have too many health departments going in to inspect them, (nor did) piercing parlors. There are a lot of factors that add to this, and because it takes such a long time for the symptoms to develop, because the liver can regenerate itself, you have people who could have been infected for 30 to 40 years, while no symptoms have developed yet.”

Hepatitis C can now be cured—but because of the high cost of these new drugs, some insurance companies are not willing to pay for them until serious liver damage has occurred.

“With hepatitis C, one of the things you want to be able to do is get yourself a good doctor, because a lot of the time, the insurance companies will make you wait until you’re at Stage 2 of liver damage,” De La Cruz said. “But you have some great doctors who will notice how much damage you have to your liver, and if you’re developing symptoms already. If you’re developing symptoms, that could be a reason to get you on treatment now instead of seeing how much damage of the liver you have.”

The cost per dose of these hepatitis C drugs is astronomical—potentially approaching $90,000 for a 12-week regimen—and the drugs are newly available to some lower-income Californians thanks to the state recently allocating $176 million for treatment.

“The medication is pretty expensive—it’s $1,050 per pill for Sovaldi—and the thing is … how many people can (an untreated person with hepatitis C) infect?” De La Cruz said. “Now you’re looking at even more infections. One person you allow to keep living with hepatitis C, not curing them—how many more people could this person infect, and how much more money is it going to cost? … It’s almost like HIV back in the ’80s, when the numbers started to multiply more and more due to a lack of education and lack of knowledge.”

There is another group De La Cruz and other health educators are trying to reach: people who know they have hepatitis C, but who have previously declined treatment due to questionable effectiveness and serious side effects.

“There are a lot of people who know they are infected and didn’t want to go through the treatment,” he said. “It’s because of not knowing that … doctors now have Sovaldi, and this medication can cure them. Many are under the assumption that it’s still interferon and ribavirin treatments, and there are horror stories they’ve heard about the interferon. It’s now my job to go out there and educate them, saying, ‘No, now there is a cure; you don’t have to live with hepatitis C anymore. Now, you don’t have to go through the regimen (lasting) six months to a year. Now, it’s just eight to 12 weeks and not just clearing 35 to 40 percent (effectiveness); now it’s 96 to 98 percent.’ Those are the things we’re trying to pass on to the public.”

When I asked how effective the public-awareness campaign has been, De La Cruz said it’s been positive—although it’s always a challenge to convince some people they’re at risk.

“Because of the high-risk population I work with in the recovery centers, the homeless shelters and the county jails—to me, it’s very positive,” he said. … “I try to go to the senior population, because of the baby boomers. … Many of them don’t know they are infected with hepatitis C and have passed it on to their loved ones.

“In the east valley, there isn’t a lot of knowledge about HIV and how it’s transmitted, and lots of times, you find people out there with HIV, and they’re in the hospital because they didn’t think they were at risk, and many years had gone by with symptoms developing. It’s also happening with hepatitis C. Now their livers are failing; now their skin is yellow; now they are tired and exhausted. … (Some people think), ‘You have no risk for hepatitis C if you’re a woman, you’re married, you have kids, you have a job, you don’t do any drugs, and you don’t do any of this or that.’ But people forget about the partners they’ve had, or something that might have happened 20 years ago that was just one time.”

For more information, call the Desert AIDS Project at 760-276-5097.

Published in Local Issues

Desert AIDS Project’s Dining Out for Life Breaks Records

If anyone ever needs proof that the residents of the Coachella Valley are a rather generous lot, look no further than the results of the Desert AIDS Project’s Dining Out for Life (DOFL) fundraiser back in April.

First, a recap of how DOFL works: On one chosen day per year, restaurants across the Coachella Valley agree to donate at least 33 percent of their sales—from one particular meal, or from everything—to the Desert AIDS Project.

On April 26, 75 local restaurants participated, raising a whopping $280,000 for DAP—an increase of $50,000 from last year. An estimated 10,000 valley residents went to these 75 restaurants that day.

“You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing someone wearing a ‘badge of honor’—the ‘I Dined’ stickers given to diners at participating locations,” said event manager George Nasci-Sinatra, according to a news release.

That’s impressive. However, it’s even more impressive when these numbers are put into context.

Dining Out for Life is a nationwide (plus Canada!) campaign held the last Thursday in April every year by various HIV/AIDS service organizations. Representatives of all of these campaigns gathered in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for the North American Dining Out for Life Conference in July to compare notes. Well, it turns out that even though the Coachella Valley is one of the smallest markets participating in Dining Out for Life, we rank No. 2 (!) in terms of money raised.

“Only Denver, which had three times more participating restaurants, raised more funds this year,” said Darrell Tucci, the chief development officer for DAP. “To be the smallest market in population driving the second-largest results is absolutely extraordinary and something we should all be proud of. Other markets have more participating restaurants, but no other market can boast the level of commitment shown by restaurants in greater Palm Springs.”

The main reason for the local Dining Out for Life’s success is the sheer generosity of local restaurants: In fact, the Top 3 restaurants in the country (plus Canada!) in terms of the total amount of money donated are here—Spencer’s Restaurant, Lulu California Bistroand Trio Restaurant, in that order. They raised a combined total of $61,679.

It’s also worth noting the sacrifice of some smaller restaurants that elected to give 100 percent or more of the day’s proceeds to DAP: Townie Bagels, Holiday House, The Barn Kitchen at Sparrows Lodge, Ristretto and Rooster and the Pig. Heck, the wait staff at Rooster and the Pig even donated their tips for the day to DAP.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, I should note that I’m personally a supporter of the Desert AIDS Project; the Independent does business with DAP; and George Nasci-Sinatra and Darrell Tucci are good friends of mine.)

Will the Coachella Valley be able to top these fantastic results during the next Dining Out for Life, on Thursday, April 25, 2019? Stay tuned.

For more information as the 2019 date draws nearer, visit www.diningoutforlife.com/palmsprings.


The Ace Hotel and Swim Club Celebrates Its Annual Craft Beer Weekend.

It’s become a summer tradition for Southern California beer-lovers: The Ace Hotel and Swim Club's Seventh Annual Craft Beer Weekend will take place Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 4 and 5.

The weekend’s big events are a Craft Beer Festival from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, featuring entertainment, food and unlimited tastings (!) from some of the top craft breweries from SoCal and beyond; and a beer brunch at 11 a.m. on Sunday, featuring six beer-inspired and beer-paired courses—plus starting and ending beers, too.

Passes for the Saturday festival are $35, and the Sunday brunch will set you back $55—or do both for just $70. Attendees who book a room for the weekend get into the festival for free.

Get tickets and more info at www.acehotel.com/calendar/palmsprings/craft-beer-weekend-18.


In Brief

The Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, at 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage, has announced it has adopted new technology from a company called ORCA Digesters, Inc., that turns food waste into water. This will keep an estimated 624 tons (!) of food out of landfills each year. Awesome! … The Libation Room is now open at 73750 El Paseo, in Palm Desert. The new cocktail bar promises a speakeasy type of vibe; check it out Tuesday through Saturday from 4:30 p.m. on. For more information, call 877-869-8891, or visit www.libationroom.com. … The Manhattan in the Desert in Palm Desert, at 74225 Highway 111, has apparently closed. The Palm Springs location, at 2665 E. Palm Canyon Drive, is still alive and kicking. … One of the most happening outdoor-dining spots in downtown Palm Springs has been temporarily closed for a “facelift.” The patio at Tropicale, at 244 E. Amado Road, was closed on July 9 for a remodel that “should take about three weeks,” although the indoor bar and dining room remains open during construction. Depending on how that goes, and when you’re reading this, it may have reopened already! Call 760-866-1952 with questions.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Help the Desert AIDS Project by Dining Out for Life on April 26

Thursday, April 26, is one of my favorite foodie days of the year.

It’s not a day featuring a lot of great deals and food specials; instead, it’s a day during which local restaurants and their customers (i.e., you) do a lot of good for the community.

April 26 is this year’s date for Dining Out for Life, the annual fundraising extravaganza for the Desert AIDS Project and other HIV/AIDS service organizations around the country. It’s simple, really: On that day, restaurants across the Coachella Valley have agreed to donate anywhere between 33 and 110 percent of their sales to DAP.

It really is simple: All you do is go out to eat, like you probably would anyway—and DAP gets a big chunk of whatever you spend. (If you feel like you must do more than simply eat out, never fear: Many participating locations also have donation envelopes available.)

My friends at DAP tell me that even though the Coachella Valley is one of the smaller markets in which Dining Out for Life takes place, it’s one of the larger markets in terms of money raised. Last year, we ranked No. 3 in North America—and this year, the folks at DAP are keeping their fingers crossed for a jump to No. 2. Our li’l community does so well, in part, because of the generosity of some large and very busy restaurants: Lulu California Bistro (donating 50 percent), TRIO (donating 60 percent) and Spencer’s (donating 75 percent) generally rank near the top of the continent-wide list in terms of the amount of money donated.

However, it is most certainly not all about the big places: The biggest generosity, in many ways, comes from the smaller, mom-and-pop places. Rooster and the Pig and Ristretto are both donating 100 percent of their sales on April 26 to DAP—while Townie Bagels is giving a whopping 110 percent.

On Dining Out for Life day, you’ll be able to find me at a half-dozen or so—maybe more—participating restaurants throughout the day: having bagels, coffee, lunch, a mid-afternoon snack, dinner, a post-dinner snack and then probably a few drinks. Follow my exploits via the Coachella Valley Independent Facebook page.

Please join me for Dining Out for Life on April 26. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: It’s literally the least you can do.

Visit www.diningoutforlife.com/palmsprings for a complete and constantly updated list of restaurants and their donation percentages.


In Brief

The much, much delayed opening of Grand Central Palm Springs, a restaurant and event space in La Plaza in downtown Palm Springs, is apparently close. Yeah, we’ve heard this several times before over the last two years, but co-owner Rita Capponi is so confident it’s actually happening this time that she gave me a “firm” opening date: May 1. More details to come; watch www.grandcentralpalmsprings.com for updates. … Alicante, the tapas-themed restaurant at 140 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in downtown Palm Springs, is gearing up for a name and theme change. Revel Public House will offer sports, great food and lots of drink, led by three new exclusive beers brewed by San Marcos’ Mason Ale Works—under the name Palm Springs Brewing Co. Visit the brand-new Revel Facebook page for details. … Draughtsman, at 1501 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, just started a new late-night menu. “Late Night at Draughtsman” takes place from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., Wednesday through Sunday. The menu includes fare such as Cauliflower “McNuggets” ($9) and a braised pork belly banh mi ($14), along with late-night beer specials and frequent entertainment. Get more info at draughtsmanpalmsprings.com. … The owners of CCBC—a gay, clothing-optional resort and play place (*ahem*)—have announced plans to build an adjoining 2,560-square-foot restaurant, called Runway; it’ll also have a 568-square-foot dining patio. We cannot wait to see this! See plans at www.ccedd.org/project/ccbc-resort-runway-restaurant. … Try (hopefully) great chili and benefit the Cathedral City Senior Center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, April 7. The annual Chili Cook-Off takes place at the Big Lots Center at Highway 111 and Date Palm Drive; $20 gets you chili tastings and a box lunch from Aspen Mills. Yum! Find more details at www.cathedralcenter.org. … And now, in the “Why in the hell not?” category: The Village Pub Palm Springs, at 266 S. Palm Canyon Drive, has launched two new food challenges. On Wednesdays, you can try one of two challenges: Eat 10 blazing wings in five minutes ($13); or gobble down one pound of potato chips and two pounds of fish with homemade beer batter in 10 minutes ($30). Beat the challenge, and the food is free. Hmm. Learn more about the “Village Idiot Food Challenge”—and see if any idiots actually succeed—at www.facebook.com/villagepubpalmsprings.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

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