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  • Writer's pictureGabriel San Roman

Slingshot: Luxury Beachfront Hotels Quietly Ride OC's Waves of Coronavirus Discontent

Courtesy of Lalo Alcaraz & Andrews McMeel Syndication, Copyright 2020

Dear Subscribers: 

On May Day, did protesters gather in Huntington Beach to demand protective gear, hazard pay or paid sick time for all frontline workers during the coronavirus pandemic? Nah! This ain't the oil town of old with big Labor Day bashes anymore. They assailed Governor Gavin Newsom as a tyrant, instead, after he gave them a Newsom nalgada by closing Orange County beaches. The governor did so after throngs flocked to the shores in Newport Beach and Huntington Beach as documented by the OC Register and other media outlets. 

A public relations campaign echoed through Huntington Beach's civic institutions on Facebook-even its public library page--and tried to convince naysayers that the crowds acted responsibly.

Without robust contact tracing, the consequences of packed beaches won't be precisely known. For what it's worth, take into consideration that the top three single-day case spikes in OC have occurred since May 1. 

And thousands of anti-closure protesters sure showed the nation that they deserved open beaches during a pandemic by descending on downtown Huntington Beach without even trying to socially distance from each other, much less wear masks. In a true marker of Newsom's iron boot of oppression, one woman held up a protest sign reading, "I want to build sand castles!" 

Pound sand, lady! 

But did anyone see the following protest signs: "Balboa Bay Club is Essential," or "Make Pasea Hotel Great Again?" No? Me neither! 

Luxury hoteliers don't exactly mesh well with the populist veneer of the protest, but the hospitality industry rode the wave of discontent anyway by joining Huntington Beach's ensuing lawsuit against Newsom, which is still ongoing despite a recent reopening of its shores with agreed upon limitations. 

Balboa Bay Club Resort, Lido House Hotel and Lounge Group, all businesses based in Newport Beach, are named as co-plaintiffs alongside Huntington Beach's Pasea Hotel in the suit. And the complaint goes to show that tourism is a key concern despite Huntington Beach's favored pastime of blaming 909ers or other outsiders for any public embarrassment within city limits. 

Much of the reporting on the suit so far has focused on its contention that Newsom's beach closure violated the state's constitution, usurped local authorities and even spurred the protest. But luxury hoteliers, who get a passing mention as co-plaintiffs at best, have concerns of a different nature: profits. 

The complaint, signed by attorneys Michael Caspino and Michael Weiler of the Buchalter Law Firm, says as much. Buried a little deeper in court documents, it's claimed that Newsom's order will cause "significant" damages to the businesses listed as co-defendants and the services offered such as hotel room stays, dining and equipment rentals to beach goers. 

"Since the governor's order only targeted Orange County, visitors to Orange County beaches will still be permitted to visit and enjoy other beaches in Southern California," the suit alleges. "Keeping Orange County beaches closed while allowing neighboring counties to keep their beaches open will drive away visitors who may decide to never come back. Huntington Beach is universally known as 'Surf City USA' and a harm to its reputation stemming from the governor's unconstitutional order would constitute irreparable harm." 

Caspino's no stranger to the hospitality industry. He previously joined forces with Pacific Hospitality Group hotelier Tim Busch before parting ways with their law firm in 2015.

As for the protests? The complaint puts the onus for them on Newsom. "Governor Newsom's television appearance and order to close all beaches within Orange County has engendered significant, on-going public unrest," the suit reads. It's an interesting claim given an anti-quarantine protest slated for May 1 already started circulating on social media before Newsom's decision to close down the beaches. 

Whatever the case, with luxury hoteliers piggy backing on Huntington Beach without being the public face of protest, the anti-quarantine crew turns out to be little more than--in borrowing a line from a late poet who once roamed Venice Beach--plastic soldiers in a miniature dirt war. 

The suit continues on Monday when attorneys will try and sway an Orange County Superior Court judge to issue on injunction against Newsom's beach closure orders. But with Dana Point ditching the legal fight and Newport Beach never joining in, don't be surprised if the whole grandstanding fiasco recedes like the tides. 

- Gabriel San Román

Like what you're reading so far? To keep the Tallest Mexican in OC's Slingshot! newsletters going Venmo: @Gabriel-SanRoman-2. Follow me on TwitterInstagram and Facebook! Don't forget to tell your friends to join the San Roman syndicate by subscribing! 

Mouse Muckraker

Back in October, I found myself at the Disneyland Hotel on a Friday night and for once it wasn't to guzzle a Shipwreck on the Rocks at Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar! On assignment for my old column, I searched for a banquet room inside the Adventure Tower as the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee was participating in a fireside chat about their working relationship with Disney on the live action remake of Aladdin

It was great to hear how the ADC and Sila Consulting helped reshaped the film from its troubled animated Orientalist past. Of course, the audience of activists wanted more culturally relevant storytelling on screen. 

While Arab Americans wait for life after Aladdin, Disney's already casting for a live action short film about Eid, the Muslim holiday celebrating the end of Ramadan. Based on the casting call, American Eid will center on Ameena, a young Pakistani girl who just immigrated to the United States. She's heartbroken to know that Eid isn't recognized as a national holiday in her new land, with school and work continuing as usual for the family.

Ameena starts a petition at school, which draws the ire of Zara, her big sister who just wants to quietly fit in. 

The early conversation on social media around American Eid is a mix of joy and trepidation. Chicanos know that feeling all too well from the lead up to Coco in 2017. But if our experience has anything to offer, American Eid will be a pleasant surprise!

By the Bylines

Nothing to report this week, as it turns out. But with the mysterious revival of OC Weekly's website, my archives have been restored along with all the other content. Check out my author's page for old favorites! 

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