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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Spotlight 29 Opens New Food Court, Mexican Restaurant

Gamblers, show-goers and foodies who find themselves at Spotlight 29—located at 46200 Harrison Place, in Coachella—now have a whole bunch more food options than they did before.

La Diabla Maria, located in what used to be the Groove nightclub, is offering beer, tequila flights and street-style tacos. “Guests can choose from carne asada, al pastor, pollo, tripas, lengua, barbacoa and pork chorizo,” according to a news release. “Both flour and corn tortillas are freshly made in house.” Yum!

At the new Pier 29 food court, diners can find three new options: Sharkey’s Pizza, which offers, well, pizza; Easy Rita’s Margaritas, which sells all sorts of flavorful, boozy drinks—and nonalcoholic options, too; and Mr. Weiner’s, which cooks up creative twists on hot dogs.

“We’re always looking for creative, fun ways to enhance the guest experience at Spotlight 29, and dining is a big part of that equation,” said Spotlight 29 General Manager Michael Frawley, in a quote that could only be made for a press release. “The new restaurants present flavors for any palate and terrific value in a fun, party-style atmosphere.”

For more information, visit Spotlight29.com.


Palm Springs Chamber’s Taste of Palm Springs Returns to Colony 29

One of the valley’s most-popular food-related events is back for another year.

The Business Expo and Taste of Palm Springs, which is put on by the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce, will be held from 5 to 9 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 16. According to the press release, the event “will include a taste of over 30 valley restaurants, wine and beer tasting, a cocktail bar, and live entertainment. Over 100 local businesses will showcase their products and services with a backdrop of the beautiful foothills of the San Jacinto Mountains, the Indian Canyons, and the remarkable Colony 29 itself.”

The list of participating restaurants and food-related business, as of this writing, includes the Tommy Bahama Marlin Bar, Lulu California Bistro, Wabi Sabi Japan Living (yay, sake!), Eight4Nine Restaurant, Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Kaiser Grill and many others.

Admission to the expo is free, but if you want food and drink—and why in the hell wouldn’t you?—you’ll need to fork over $20 for a wristband.

Colony 29 is located at 147 S. Tahquitz Drive, right at the base of the mountain. Shuttle buses will run to and from the public parking garage across from the Palm Springs Art Museum every five minutes or so. For wristbands or more information, call 760-325-1577, or visit pschamber.org.


In Brief

The good news: Bongo Johnny’s—which has been closed since an early-morning fire gutted the restaurant’s kitchen at 214 E. Arenas Road, in downtown Palm Springs, on March 7—will reopen somehow, someway, according to owner Robb Wirt. The bad news: Now more than six months later, a reopening date remains months away. Wirt says the landlord is dragging its feet on reconstruction. We’re keeping our fingers crossed; watch this space for updates. … We have only good news to report on this one: The much-delayed downtown Palm Springs location of Wilma and Frieda’s, at 155 S. Palm Canyon Drive—in the second-floor space previously occupied by The Falls—will reportedly be opening soon. To repeat: We’re keeping our fingers crossed; watch this space for updates. … Hair of the Dog, the pub long located at 238 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in downtown Palm Springs, has closed, but is slated to reopen soon a wee bit south—specifically, at the corner of South Palm Canyon Drive and East Camino Parocela. … New to Rancho Mirage, at 72817 Dinah Shore Drive: Sushi Arigato. We have not yet had a chance to try out the place ourselves, but the food we’ve seen in the pictures on the review sites looks absolutely delicious! Call 760-656-8886 for more information. … While this event doesn’t have a whole lot directly to do with food, it’s an event that’s near and dear to our hearts: The 12th annual Paint El Paseo Pink walk takes place from 7 to 10:30 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 13. It costs $25 to register for the 2-mile walk around El Paseo in Palm Desert, and all of the proceeds go to the Desert Cancer Foundation. Register or get more information by calling 760-773-6554, or visiting desertcancerfoundation.org.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Vacation rentals are one of the most contentious issues in Palm Springs—and on June 5, voters in the city will decide on a measure that opponents say would effectively ban vacation rentals, if approved.

Measure C is the culmination of a battle that’s been brewing for more than a decade over short-term rentals, or STRs. The housing-market crash during the Great Recession created an STR boom in Palm Springs, as buyers both local and from out of town snapped up foreclosed-property bargains, and later turned them into vacation rentals.

The problem is that these homes—available for weekend getaways and short retreats through Airbnb and other services, and at times the sites of rather raucous parties—are intermingled with homes occupied by full- and part-time residents.

According to Rob Grimm, the campaign manager for Palm Springs Neighbors for Neighborhoods—the group that got Measure C placed on the June ballot—there are 1,986 units registered as vacation rentals and home shares, which hosted an estimated 467,000 visitors in 2017.

“This is an alarming number of strangers to be rotating in and out of unsupervised mini-hotels located in residential neighborhoods,” said Grimm.

However, city officials claim that the STR issue is under control, thanks to strict enforcement of the city’s newish vacation rental compliance ordinance.

“We are one of the only cities in California that has a dedicated Vacation Rental Compliance Department,” said Boris Stark, a vacation-rental code-compliance officer. “Our latest ordinance … was a collaboration among community stakeholders and city leadership. It addresses neighborhood concerns head-on.”

Stark said the department includes eight officers and two vehicles. I personally have seen VRC officers working, often late at night and on weekends, to enforce the city’s ordinance. (I wanted to go on a ride-along with Stark, but City Manager David Ready did not respond to my request.)

The city makes hefty revenues from the STRs.

“For fiscal year 2016-17, total (transient occupancy tax) dollars from vacation rentals was $7.58 million, and for 2017-18, we anticipate the same,” Stark said. “Vacation Rental Compliance issued over 430 citations for various violations in 2017.”

Grimm said no neighborhood in Palm Springs has been unaffected by STRs.

“The city has refused to entertain density limits on the number of STRs allowed in the city,” he said.

Measure C has attracted fierce opposition in the form of a coalition called We Love Palm Springs. According to Jeremy Ogul, the coalition’s media relations coordinator, opposition to the STR ban comes from groups including Vacation Rental Owners and Neighbors of Palm Springs, representing nearly 400 homeowners; the Palm Springs Hospitality Association, with about 200 hotels, restaurants and attraction venues in the city; the Palm Springs Regional Association of Realtors; and the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce, among other groups.

“We oppose Measure C because of the devastating impact it would have on the Palm Springs economy,” said Nona Watson, CEO of the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce, in a news release.

While a majority of vacation rentals are owned by people who are not residents of Palm Springs, local entrepreneurs have also invested in STRs. Athalie LaPamuk owns and manages two vacation rentals in the city. She also owns and operates Ice Cream and Shop(pe) at the Arrive Hotel.

“I often meet visitors at my vacation rental who are excited to plan a return trip to stay at the hotel, or guests at the hotel who want to come back and stay in a vacation rental,” LaPamuk said in a news release. “Those are some of the same people who end up moving here and starting businesses here. The point is that our city benefits from all this tourism activity.”

Both sides fervently believe they are acting in the city’s best interests.

“It is time for the residents of Palm Springs to decide what their neighborhoods should look like,” Grimm said.

Published in Local Issues

Everything Old Is New Again: Acqua California Bistro to Open at The River

When Acqua Pazza California Bistro closed at The River back in December 2014, owner Jerry Keller told the local daily that he was ending Acqua Pazza’s 10-year run because his lease was up, and he had decided it was time for him to slow down and focus on his other restaurant, the wildly successful Lulu California Bistro in downtown Palm Springs.

Keller has apparently decided it’s time to speed up again: Acqua Pazza is coming back … sort of.

Jerry and Barbara Keller, along with The River, announced on Sept. 12 that Acqua California Bistro will open in the old Acqua Pazza space—most recently occupied by the now-shuttered BB’s at The River—this winter.

“There’s not a day that goes by when we meet someone who misses our first restaurant at The River,” said Jerry Keller in a news release. “Our customers have asked us to come back to Rancho Mirage, and we will this winter with Acqua California Bistro.”

Whatever the owners of The River did to lure the Kellers back, it was shrewd. The Rancho Mirage shopping center, at 71800 Highway 111, has been battered by negative buzz, due to various closures and empty storefronts.

“We are very excited to welcome Acqua California Bistro into our mix of retail shopping, dining and entertainment experiences, and of course, to welcome the Keller family back to Rancho Mirage,” said Ungar Kung, the principal at CL Asset Management, the owners’ representative of The River, in a could-only-be-said-in-a-press-release statement. “Acqua Pazza was an important destination restaurant during the first 15 years or so in The River’s history. I am confident that the Kellers will bring the same energy and excitement back to this location with their new Acqua California Bistro.”

Expect a December opening. Visit www.facebook.com/AcquaRanchoMirage for details and updates.


Taste of Palm Springs Returns to Colony 29 on Oct. 11

Every year, the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce puts on the 2016 Business Expo and Taste of Palm Springs. The good folks there will like you to know that the annual Business Expo—which takes place at the Colony 29, nestled against the mountain at 147 S. Tahquitz Drive, in Palm Springs—will feature more than 100 businesses showing off products and services from 5 to 9 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 11.

OK, well, that’s nice. But what about … you know, the Taste of Palm Springs part? Here’s the scoop: More than 30 area restaurants will offer bites of their fare, along with beer and wine—and there’s a cocktail bar there to boot.

Now we’re talking!

Admission to the event is technically free, but you’ll want to pay $25 for a wristband that allows you to enjoy the food, beer and wine. Also, a tip: Park at one of the downtown garages, and get to and from the festival at Colony 29 by catching one of the special Buzz trollies at Tahquitz Canyon Way and Cahuilla Road, or Palm Canyon Drive and Baristo Road.

Participating bars and restaurants are slated to include Appetito, Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge, Frankinbun, Lulu California Bistro, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill, Ruby’s Diner, Sherman’s Delicatessen and Bakery, Sullivan’s Steakhouse, Tipper’s Gourmet Marketplace, TRIO, Woody’s Palm House and a whole bunch more!

Get those wristbands and more information by calling 760-325-1577, or visiting pschamber.org.


In Brief

Man, a lot of good stuff is coming to the 1000s section of North Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs—including Draughtsman, at what used to be a Pizza Hut at 1501 N. Palm Canyon Drive. The “renderer of fine foods and craft beer” should open within a month or two. Visit www.facebook.com/draughtsmanpalmsprings for photos, details and updates. … What’s going on at Rocky’s New York Style Pizzeria, at 12856 Palm Drive, in Desert Hot Springs? The place often closes for the summer—but last we looked, not only is Rocky’s still closed; the inside has been gutted. When you call Rocky’s phone number, a message reassures callers that Rocky’s will reopen in the fall. Hmmm. Something either really bad or really good is happening; we’ll keep our eye on things. … Fans of donuts and good coffee, rejoice! Dunkin Donuts is supposed to open sometime in October at 42225 Jackson St., in Indio. … It’s been a rough couple of months for mid-valley chain restaurants. Both Richie’s Real American Diner, inside the Westfield Palm Desert at 72840 Highway 111, and Johnny Rockets, at 71885 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage, have closed their doors. … Keep your eyes on the space at 73330 El Paseo, in Palm Desert: Yard House Restaurants founder Steele Platt announced on Facebook that he is working on Grafton’s Steakhouse, slated to open in the summer of 2017. It’ll be a two-story restaurant with an island bar, a rooftop deck with mountain views, and all sorts of premium meats. We shall keep you posted. … Tickets are now on sale for the Palm Desert Food and Wine festival, slated for March 24-26, 2017. Head to palmdesertfoodandwine.com to get ’em; grand tasting tickets start at $100. 

Published in Restaurant & Food News

DJ Femme A (aka Annie Flores) has made a name for herself during her first year in the local music scene. She’s DJ’d special events at Saks Fifth Avenue (on El Paseo in Palm Desert) and for the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce. She also performs regularly at Clinic Bar and Lounge in Palm Springs. She can mix up a variety of different genres, from hip hop and Top 40 all the way to EDM. Hear more and get more info at soundcloud.com/femme-a—and enjoy her answers to the Lucky 13!

What was the first concert you attended?

The first concerts I attended were concerts through the Los Angeles-based radio station KROQ, and they all had tons of different bands playing, but I remember enjoying Linkin Park, Incubus and Hot Hot Heat.

What was the first album you owned?  

Wow, I feel really old, because I don’t remember what my exact first album was, but I know that I owned a bunch of “singles” cassette tapes, and they were mostly R&B and hip hop: Soul for Real, The Notorious B.I.G., New Edition, Michael Jackson and Mary J. Blige, to name a few.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Bands? Lately, I’ve been listening to Santigold, Salt-n-Pepa and some psytrance, when I work out and drive.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

(English dance-music group) Above and Beyond. Is that even considered EDM?

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

I’d like to see a sweet DJ (maybe Day Din) in Germany at a festival; I’ve seen videos on YouTube and they look awesome. Santigold would be nice to see as well.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

When I really, really love a song, I can listen to it on repeat for days.

What’s your favorite music venue?

I’ve been to a handful of outdoors events and festivals, and they are, by far, my favorite. (I love the) feeling of being free, having friends with you, dancing during the day and at night, frolicking in the grass, and the fact that I don’t need to be dressed up or wearing heels as one would for a “nightclub.”

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“Ey, ey, ey, ey, you don’t lie,” from “Unstoppable” by Santigold.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

The Cure! I first heard them when I was 18. I went to this small club/dive bar every Sunday night that played new-wave and electro, and I remember whenever “Just Like Heaven” played on those club speakers, we’d drop our dirty cigarettes and run to the dance floor. Having that music during that moment in my life created memories for some of the best times of my late teens and early 20s—being young, free, underage and having fun. During that same period, I discovered so many new types of sounds that still influence me today, like Benny Benassi, and Felix Da Housecat and Miss Kittin (which led to me have an appreciation for EDM—electro house, progressive house and psytrance, to be exact).

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

The question is for Gwen Stefani: “Will you marry me?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Wolfsheim, “Once in a Lifetime.”

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

No Doubt, Tragic Kingdom.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Chali 2na’s “Gadget Go Go.” (Scroll down to hear it!)

Published in The Lucky 13

Editor’s Note: A representative of the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce’s Athena Awards approached the Independent about publishing this Q&A with Mariah Hanson, the founder of one of Palm Springs’ largest annual events: the Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend, aka “The Dinah” (thedinah.com). The 2014 event takes place April 2-6.

Hanson is the recipient of the 2013 Athena Leadership Award, presented by the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce. She—along with Carol Channing and Helene Galen—will be honored at the 2013 Athena Luncheon, at 11:30 a.m., Thursday, Dec. 5, at the Renaissance Palm Springs, 888 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way in Palm Springs, Tickets are $85, or $65 for chamber members. To register or get more information, visit www.pschamber.org.

How does it feel to be recognized and honored by the city of Palm Springs with an Athena Award?

I am beyond honored, humbled and grateful to be receiving this award. To be singled out alongside such other distinguished and esteemed honorees, not to mention (being in) such stellar company of women, is, on a personal level, quite an amazing prestige. Just as importantly for me, as an LGBT American to earn such distinction at the local government level from both the Chamber of Commerce and the city of Palm Springs itself is simply incredible.

Why do you think events like the Athena Awards, which honor women leaders, are important?

Contrary to the stereotypical stigma, women are strong and empowered leaders. Yet we are only recognized as such when we adopt a more-masculine persona in business. I personally believe when we, as women, feel confident enough to also bring our feminine attributes into business—such as kindness and compassion, and absolutely own these qualities—we conduct kinder and more-empowering business for all. So yes, awards such as the Athena Awards are extremely important. Overall, it encourages women to take charge, to lead and to blaze forward, in a way that leaves a wake of empowerment and inclusiveness for other women—and men as well!

You’re celebrating 24 years producing the Dinah Shore Weekend in Palm Springs. What role has the city played in the overall success of the event?

Palm Springs has been an amazing partner throughout the 24 years I have been conducting business here. It’s a smart city, run by smart people, who “get it.”

As the saying goes: A rising tide lifts all boats, and Palm Springs appears to understand and fearlessly take that approach in its vision of the future. It is one of the many reasons it has once again reinvented itself and is now enjoying another exceptional renaissance. I honestly could not have found a better place to produce The Dinah than Palm Springs; and I am beyond grateful of the support and love the city and the community has given my event, my customers and me for almost a quarter-century now. It’s an amazing LGBT-supportive city, and this recognition shows just how truly hip and inclusive Palm Springs is. I look forward to The Dinah being here for another 24 years!

What was the most difficult obstacle you’ve had to overcome as a woman in the course of these 24 years producing the Dinah?

Some men I have worked with over the years don’t take women as seriously as they should, but that’s an endemic problem between the sexes and not one that I have ever felt inhibited by. Personally, when faced with sexism, rather than fight it, I’m more inclined to simply take another approach. What’s important is achieving your goals. If you do that, you’ve successfully fought sexism. Many roads lead to Rome, and as long as you get there, all is well.

On a personal level, what does the Dinah represent for you? And what got you hooked to want to produce it for 24 years?

The Dinah is a celebration of living out loud, of being heard, of being seen. When you break it down, at a fundamental level, isn’t that what we all want? For five days, I have the esteemed opportunity to make that possible for a lot of women who may not enjoy that kind of freedom when they return home. It’s incredibly rewarding, and I like to think it is life-changing for them.

What is it about The Dinah that is a life-changing experience for women?

Imagine living in a more-remote part of the country where being out may not be considered socially acceptable. Fast-forward to arriving at The Dinah, where thousands of women are living out loud, without the fear of being judged or bullied. Not only that, but they’re also embraced by an entire city that sends an unspoken message of: You’re worth it! That’s life-changing. Imagine being an older lesbian who has had to keep her love for her partner “in the closet” for her entire lifetime and then attends The Dinah—or perhaps just one of our many events. She then gets a glimpse into this public celebration of our lives. She surely must think: All that work and efforts to attain our rights was worth it. Look at this joy!

What do you think mainstream perception of the event is? And is it important that mainstream people know about it?

I think mainstream society looks at this event like they do any other event that celebrates a specific culture. The LGBT community definitely has a culture, and we feel it is important to celebrate it through our pride events and events such as The Dinah. I think it is very important that mainstream society knows about our lives. The more society as a whole recognizes the fact that our lives are really not all that different than that of society at large, the sooner the LGBT issues of equality will be resolved favorably. It’s about putting a human face to our LGBT community to break stereotypes.

Do you think it is still important for the LGBT community to have events like the Dinah?

Events such as The Dinah offer a space in time to celebrate out loud. There is still a majority of gay women who live in hiding having to pretend to be someone else ... simply because their environment forces them to.

It’s hard for those of us who have the freedom to walk the streets holding hands and kissing our partner to fathom the fact that our lifestyle is not the same for a majority of others, but rather is the exception. We take for granted the fact that our reality is still a dream many wish would come true. The Dinah offers gay women from all over the world the opportunity to escape for five days from the rest of their 360-day life … and provides them the freedom to be who they are.

I believe it provides a glimpse of what life would be if everyone were accepting of each other, no matter what the size of their body, the color of their skin, and/or the tax bracket they belong to. Simply put, it is a testimony of how perfect the world would be if we could all be free to feel free!

What is your favorite job-related story?

I have so many. I liked it when the city made me deputy mayor for the day, and Tim Ellis asked me if I would sign off on his parking ticket. That was a no, apparently. Katy Perry was a career highlight to date. Meeting lesbians from small towns whose eyes are so big at the sights they see … always makes me smile.

Can you share a little-known fact about yourself?

I used to dress up as a cowboy when I was 5 and stand out in the middle of our neighborhood street and demand a quarter from cars driving by. Oh my God. I just realized something: I haven’t changed.

What can you tell us about The Dinah 2014?

The Dinah 2014 is going to be off the hook! I have a major act lined up that I am really excited about! We’re expecting another blockbuster this year.

Published in Community Voices