The organization that produces LA Pride announced that after 41 years, the parade and festival that attracts nearly 200,000 annually will no longer host the LGBTQ event in the city of West Hollywood. This week, Christopher Street West (CSW), the nonprofit that operates the event, notified West Hollywood’s City Council of its decision but did not indicate which neighborhood it would host the event in next year. Now officials are looking for a new organization to produce a similar event in West Hollywood, which could result in two major LGBTQ festivals within Los Angeles County.
It seems almost unthinkable to some that West Hollywood, where 40 percent of residents identify as LGBTQ and where three of the five members of the West Hollywood City Council are openly gay, would lose its most iconic event of the year.
LA Pride is far more than a festival. It generates jobs, substantial tax revenue, and increased business for West Hollywood bars and restaurants during Pride Week. Plus, the move to another part of LA could mean a substantial shift in where those dollars are spent, and restaurants and bars have something to say about it.
Nearly half of LA Pride ticket buyers were from Los Angeles County, with 31 percent of attendees hailing from out of state, and the remainder from elsewhere in Southern California, according to a report by the LA-based economic research firm Beacon Economics.
The split from one major LBGTQ festival to two could negatively affect West Hollywood restaurants, clubs, and bars. LA-based economic research firm Beacon Economics analyzed the economic impact of 2019’s LA Pride. That year’s festival generated 830 jobs within Los Angeles County, including 397 in West Hollywood and 191 in the City of Los Angeles. The 2019 estimated tax revenue was $2.5 million.
CSW’s announcement comes at the tail end of trouble for the organization. In 2016, the Los Angeles Times interviewed #NotOurPride protestors who believed LA Pride became the equivalent of a corporate “gay Coachella.” A ticketing issue in 2018 left many unable to enter the event. The 2020 festival was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, though CSW announced a Black Lives Matter solidarity march in its place. Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and the Black LGBTQ community stated they never endorsed the event. The event was also criticized for its partnership with the Los Angeles Police Department, according to Them.
Genevieve Morrill, President/CEO of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce counters that there were other factors at play. With the festival drawing hundreds of thousands of attendees to West Hollywood’s streets and businesses, capacity has become an issue. “They were limited in what they could do in the space,” says Morrill. “Pride belongs to the whole city. I see it continuing in a huge way, but we just don’t know what that looks like yet.”
Morrill believes that WeHo will still reap the benefits of Pride, no matter where it ends up.
There’s been various hurdles they’ve had with expanding. I think West Hollywood will still be a premiere location and central place for Pride activities, and just relocated as somewhere else. The city is already deciding to already create their own Pride event. I’m sad to see it go, but I see the potential with CSW as a huge economic partner that serves on my board, and valuable to the city of WeHo and the business community. Because West Hollywood is the epicenter for LGBTQ life, regardless of where they relocate, will still reap the benefit of Pride being in LA.
As one of the most well-known and longstanding LGBTQ bars in Los Angeles, The Abbey draws countless visitors year round. Founder and CEO David Cooley notes that Pride is more about community than economics. “Pride is about bringing the entire community together to celebrate and advance the fight for LGBTQ+ equality,” says Cooley. “How we do that has continually evolved over the past 50 years. The current pandemic, the Republican-led assault on LGBTQ+ rights, and the continual murder of so many trans women, especially of color, requires us to fight even harder. Pride is bigger than any single neighborhood, organization, weekend, or event.”
If West Hollywood no longer hosts Pride, a number of other LA locations could work, such as Downtown, Silver Lake, or even an expanded Pride festival in Long Beach. Social media discussions raise some valid points that a different venue would be more inclusive to LGBTQ communities of color, and that those without cars would have better public transit access than they would to West Hollywood. However, with the current coronavirus pandemic still raging across the country and surging in LA County in recent weeks, one wonders about the viability of any large-scale public gathering or event at this point, even in 2021.
Matthew De Marte, seafood restaurant Connie & Ted’s longtime general manager, has a more somber view. The seafood restaurant holds a prime location in the center of the Pride parade route on Santa Monica Blvd. “We at Connie & Ted’s are very sad to see LA Pride leaving West Hollywood,” says De Marte. “We were so fortunate to be situated directly on the parade route — for every year we were able to be a part of an event that truly expressed joy, love, and togetherness for everyone.”