Long Beach city officials and a boardwalk restaurant reached an agreement Saturday after exchanging barbs over an LGBT Pride flag and tables and chairs on the boardwalk.
The city and the restaurant Riptides 11561 agreed to move the rainbow Pride flag a week after the Hauppauge-based LGBT Network held a news conference protesting the flag’s removal from the city's boardwalk railing at Edwards Boulevard.
Riptides owner Brian Braddish agreed Saturday to move the Pride flag, along with an American flag and a POW/MIA flag, off the boardwalk onto Riptides' leased property, next to the railing.
The restaurant and every other business on the boardwalk received letters from the city Thursday, revoking any allowance of chairs and tables on the boardwalk, to follow city code. City officials said the same guidance was issued last summer, with the exception of tables on the leased property.
Riptides owners said the order to remove at least seven tables and chairs from the boardwalk was retaliation for protesting the Pride flag last week.
Long Beach city officials said they were trying to follow uniform codes and regulations for all businesses and other flags and postings on the boardwalk. Long Beach City Council Vice President Karen McInnis said the ordinance enforcement was not retaliation, but followed the city’s regulations last year.
"Some businesses may not be used to adhering to rules and lease agreements, but the city has a responsibility to enforce regulations. Some businesses have a harder time than others in following rules and regulations," McInnis said. "In Long Beach, we don’t operate on handshake deals. It may have been done in the past, but not any longer."
The city offered to renegotiate Riptides’ lease or any other business to charge $100 per table on the boardwalk. Riptides will now pay an additional $700 a year to keep its tables against the boardwalk railing, Riptides’ attorney Jon Bell said.
"Whether it’s coincidence or retaliation, they told other restaurants on the boardwalk they were not allowed to have tables and chairs," Bell said. "The owner said he had verbal permission for years. This would drastically and negatively affect business. The city may have felt pressure, but we were able to strike a deal."
The order to remove flags and clear the boardwalk followed a dispute with a resident, Michael Wasserman, who was cited for flying a profane anti-Joe Biden flag and Trump flags on his car that city officials asked him to move to his apartment balcony. Wasserman sued the city this month for $25 million.
LGBT Network chairman David Kilmnick said the incident shouldn’t be compared to the removal of the Pride flag, but said the city bowed to public pressure after what he viewed as retaliation.
"The First Amendment doesn’t exist to punish expression, it’s to protect expression equally," Kilmnick said. "The city had to reverse course to do what is protected in the First Amendment."
City officials said they had told Riptides it had to move all flags on the boardwalk, including a POW/MIA flag, not just the Pride flag.
"This was never about the Pride flag. This is a business transaction, and if people want to pull PR stunts and spew malicious lies and rumors, they better look at their business model," McInnis said.