One of Wilton Manors' most beloved destinations, Rumors Bar & Grill, has announced its closing date.
After a five-year run, the establishment posted on Facebook that it will shut its doors permanently Sunday, August 18. Rated by New Times as one of the best gay bars in Fort Lauderdale, Rumors debuted in 2013 on Wilton Drive in the center of town and quickly became a go-to spot for locals and visitors, who were drawn to its friendly atmosphere, cocktails, and a food menu by celebrity chef Robyn Almodovar.
Managing partner Nick Berry owns two other businesses on the Drive and is chairman of the boards for the city's Planning and Zoning and Economic Development. He blames the community's reluctance to allow for development.
"Wilton Manors needs to increase their height and density immediately; otherwise, the arts and entertainment district, which is the jewel of the city, won't go anywhere," Berry says. "Right now, there aren't enough residential buildings for people to live in, and developers won't invest here because there's a max limit of five stories in the city. The city commission needs to understand that sustainability is where it's at, and they need to start looking into it now, because it will take several years for any change to happen."
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The entrepreneur, who manages 80 residential properties throughout South Florida, also cites residents' resistance to growth. "Older folks in town hate any change, but they don't realize that the businesses on the Drive pay the majority of property taxes and that residents need to keep a thriving downtown in order to lower their taxes."
He says that when Rumors opened, there were only three other gay bars on the Drive. Now, he notes, there are more than a dozen, and they're constantly shutting down because owners can't make a profit. "There's no distant separation between bars on the Drive, and rents are exorbitant because every landlord thinks they can rent to a bar. But people come in with their life savings, can't keep up, and end up closing after a few months... We were grossing over $1.5 million a year and still losing money."
There's still some time to visit and say farewell. Rumors has given its employees two weeks' notice and, in the meantime, will sell drinks at half price. "Our staff is like family," Berry says. "We hope the community will come and support us before the end to give them an opportunity to get re-employed."