CVIndependent

Sun04052020

Last updateFri, 03 Apr 2020 5pm

Thank goodness I live in California.

Those are six words that I don’t always, well, feel. Don’t get me wrong; I love it here. This is the place I chose to live, after all. But there are times the state government can be a serious pain in the ass, as any, and I mean ANY, small-business owner will tell you.

But, man, when it comes to this pandemic, thank goodness I live in California. The leadership from the state has been fairly quick, decisive and competent … and such is not the case in other states.

Those six words—thank goodness I live in California—have been running through my head in a loop every time I read a tweet from my friend Donna Ladd. She’s the co-founder of the Jackson Free Press, the kick-ass alternative newspaper in Jackson, Mississippi—a state where things, basically, are a mess.

Why? Because Gov. Tate Reeves has made them that way.

For the full story, I’ll direct you to this just-published editorial, by Donna and her team. But here’s the four-sentence summary: Reeves declared a state of emergency, closed schools, expedited unemployment, etc. … which is good. He then issued an executive order closing or limiting businesses unless they’re deemed essential … which is painful, but good for public-health purposes. However, the order goes on to, in the words of the Free Press, “exempt pretty much all businesses” … which is bad. And finally, the order, again in the words of the Free Press, “contains specific, direct language saying that it overrides any efforts by other bodies—like local mayors—to order stronger distancing in their areas of Mississippi” … which is WTF-you-must-be-kidding-me heinous.

Props to Donna and her staff. Their work is a prime example of the importance of independent journalism—especially in crazy times like these.

Oh, and one more thing: Thank goodness I live in California.

And now, some news:

• If you want a copy of our April print edition delivered to you by mail, that is now an option. I’ll elaborate more on this and the Independent’s other plans moving forward tomorrow.

• From our partners at CalMatters, via the Independent: Here’s an update on the state’s efforts to house the homeless during the pandemic.

We’re No. 1. U.S.A. Sigh.

• Also from The New York Times: An interactive piece where you can see (admittedly rough and flawed, but still helpful and revealing) projections of the COVID-19 toll based on social distancing time and severity, seasonal factors and so on.

• I appeared again on the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast—this time, with video (so you can see what my raggedy face looks like at 8 a.m. in the morning, and I am really sorry about that)—for a Q&A with Dr. Laura Rush.

• If you can give blood, please do so.

• From the city of Palm Springs: “A new hotline and email is now available for Palm Springs businesses and residents impacted by the spread of coronavirus. Anyone with questions such as how to apply for unemployment, a small business loan, unemployment, find information about recent city and state of California orders related to sheltering in place, parks, trails, golf courses, the moratorium on vacation rentals, homeshares, hotels and any other issue, can now call a hotline number at (760) 902-1155 or reach out via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Our goal is that city staff will respond to your call within one hour, Monday-Thursday from 8 a.m.-6 p.m.” Cool.

• You know that drug Donald Trump touted as a COVID-19 treatment? And a bunch of people said that was really stupid? And then someone took a bunch of it to self-treat himself and died? Here’s the nuanced truth on chloroquine, from the always-excellent The Conversation. (Spoiler alert: It was still really stupid for the president to say that.)

• James Dyson—the dude who makes that weird vacuum cleaner—designed and began producing a new kind of ventilator. In 10 days. He’s donating 5,000 of them to the worldwide fight against COVID-19. #badass

If you’re caring for someone dealing with dementia during this crazy time: 1) God bless you, and 2) Check out these tips from the Alzheimer’s Association.

• The Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce is lobbying the state insurance commissioner to make insurance carriers cover business interruptions—like, say, this pandemic—under existing policies.

• The Desert AIDS Project is seeking donations of personal protective equipment.

Chris Hemsworth is offering free virtual workouts for the next six weeks. Go Thor!

• Finally … a long read, but a good read—one so good that President Obama endorsed it via Tweet: From The Atlantic, “How the Pandemic Will End.”

That’s all for now. Wash your hands. For the full 20 seconds. Yeah, get the thumbs, and down your wrist, etc. There you go. Good job. More tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

Understatement alert: Things are weird for all of us right now.

On a personal level, this fact really hit home for me when it was a relief and even a pleasure—a temporary return to normalcy, if you will—to spend two hours today editing/proofing 8,000 words of question responses by Rancho Mirage City Council candidates.

Yay, journalism!

Normally, an editor such as myself would find a task like this to be about as enjoyable as dental surgery without anesthesia. (No offense to the Rancho Mirage candidates; the case is the same with full Q&A interviews with candidates for each and every office. The responses are important and interesting, albeit a bit rambling in some cases, but the task of carefully proofing the text is, well, bleh.)

But today, it was … nice.

A hat tip to Kevin Fitzgerald, the Independent’s staff writer, who had to transcribe all of those 8,000 words. Buy him a drink the next time you see him out and about. Y’know, in a few months.

Sigh.

Anyway, on with the news:

• Yesterday was the first time in the Independent’s history that we’ve ever sent an email to our e-subscriber list that was not specifically related to Independent content. Instead, it was about the vitally important work the Desert AIDS Project is doing now—and the fact that the organization, due to a loss in revenue and a huge rise in expenses because it opened a whole, new clinic to respond to the COVID-19 crisis—really needs our help. Find that message here, and go here if you can help: https://desertaidsproject.salsalabs.org/covid19fund/p/coachellavalleyindependent/index.html

Eisenhower has put out a call for donations of personal protective equipment. Call 760-837-8988, or click here for details. 

The city of Palm Springs has clarified the temporary rules on short-term rental and hotel bookings. To paraphrase: They’re not allowed, save for some very specific exemptions.

• Some, but not all, of the big banks have agreed to a 90-day moratorium on mortgage payments if you’ve been affected by COVID-19. As of yet, alas, the state has yet to take firm steps to protect people who rent—but Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia and others are calling for action.

• However, the city of Rancho Mirage has already taken action by issuing a moratorium on residential and commercial evictions.

• Here’s more info on what the city of Rancho Mirage is doing to boost the takeout-offering restaurants in that city.

Confused about what’s an essential business, and what isn’t, and what this all means? The city of Palm Springs has posted this helpful breakdown regarding the state order means.

The Desert Healthcare District has allocated $1.3 million to help with various issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic locally.

• From the Independent: Coachella and Stagecoach have been moved to October this year. Our Kevin Carlow thinks that should be a permanent thing.

SunLine is offering free fixed-route rides during the pandemic. Just make sure you board in the back.

• Fox and iHeartRadio are teaming up for an all-star concert, hosted by Elton John. It’s called the Living Room Concert for America, and it airs this coming Sunday on Fox.

• The Conversation brings us this fascinating piece on the mad-dash effort to find existing drugs that will help patients suffering from COVID-19.

• Meanwhile, the FDA is allowing doctors to use the blood of people who have recovered from COVID-19 to treat people in the midst of the battle with the virus.

• The California Desert Arts Council has compiled a list of resources offering financial relief for artists and art organizations.

Stephen Colbert is the latest talk show to announce a return to the air—just with everyone working from home.

• Theater fans: The Tony Awards, to nobody’s surprise, have been postponed. In other, awful theater news, the coronavirus has claimed the life of the Tony Award-winning writer Terrence McNally.

• The Wall Street Journal suggests these home workouts you can do to keep yourself in shape.

• Remember that kid in that viral video who refused to stop partying, saying, “If I get corona, I get corona?” Well, he’s apologized.

• Some local restaurants including Jake’s and Dringk are starting a very cool thing: Selling food essentials in addition to prepared dishes.

• In related news, our friends at the Purple Room are offering an online virtual show tonight to go along with takeout food.

• Local treasure Joyce Perry—you may remember her as Joyce Bulifant, of Airplane! and Match Game fame—has posted this hilarious (if oddly violent video) of her son trying to show her how to use Tinder.

• DJ Galaxy—our readers’ pick in the Best of Coachella Valley as the Best Local DJ—made this video of shuttered spaces in Palm Springs and Cathedral City that are beloved by the LGBT community. I’ll admit: It made me cry.

That’s all for today. Wash your hands. Eat good food. Call someone you love. More tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

This new normal, alas, is going to last a while—and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Therefore, it’s downright crucial that we make the best of this shit show.

Personally, this has meant two things: First, I am trying to take good care of myself—yes, that means getting exercise (something I need to get better at even during “normal” times) and washing my hands a bazillion times a day, etc., but just as importantly, it means taking care of my mental health. That’s why yesterday’s (mostly) day off was amazing. I slept in. I mostly avoided the news. I ate yummy, healthy food. I watched Bojack Horseman. (Not familiar? Seriously, check it out. Yeah, I know there are animated talking animals. It’s so much more than that.)

Second: Not only am I trying to simply maintain myself; I am trying to better myself. Yeah, our lives have all been disrupted … but that doesn’t mean we should simply waste this time. If the brunt of this, say, lasts three months, it’s not like the universe is going to add an extra three months to our lives to make up for it, after all.

So, yeah. We need to make the most of this time, as crazy as it is.

In that vein, I’d like to highlight an article we just posted at CVIndependent.com. I asked Matt King, our fabulous and talented music writer, to compile a list of songs from local musicians people should get to know. Not only did he do just that; he actually made a playlist with these songs on Spotify and YouTube.

Question: How many of you out there like music? Raise your hands, please. Yeah … almost all of you. Great!

Second question: How many of you out there can name more than, say, five local bands? Hmm. I am not seeing a lot of hands going up in my mind’s eye.

If you’re one of the people whose hands didn’t figuratively go up for that last question, you really should go check out Matt’s Coachella Valley Quarantine playlist. Trust me: You’ll be blown away at the local talent you’ve never heard of. Not every song may be your cup of tea; heck, most of them may not be. But you’ll enjoy one or two or four of them.

When you do find a song you like, go listen to more of that band’s music. Follow them on social media. Send a message complimenting them. Buy their music. And when the bars and clubs open again—oh, what a glorious day that’ll be—go see them. If you throw a party, hire them, even.

If you actually do listen to the Coachella Valley Quarantine playlist today and find a new local band … hey, you bettered yourself, even if just a little. And that’s a very, very good thing.

Today’s news and links:

• Gov. Newsom has asked the National Guard to help make sure food is getting to people who need it. Here’s his office’s advice on how you can help. And if you need help, here’s a list of resources.

• We will be talking more in coming days about the mind-blowingly important work the Desert AIDS Project is doingthey created a whole new clinic to help people with COVID-19 in a matter of days, and revealed late Friday night that three of that clinic’s patients have so far tested positive for the coronavirus. Here is DAP’s regularly updated Q&A page on COVID-19.

• Rep. Raul Ruiz has created a list of federal and local resources for his constituents while we deal with all this craziness. 

• The San Francisco Chronicle has created a list of events you can stream from the Bay Area during this time. Know of local events? Drop me a line at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

• This website, created by all sorts of smart people, shows state-by-state predictions on what’s going to happen with the COVID-19 spread. It’s kinda scary, but I found some hope in it—because if it’s right, California may be doing OK at #flatteningthecurve.

• The Los Angeles Times has a fascinating piece about the online diary of Fang Fang, a writer who lives in Wuhan, China. Again, kinda scary, but with some hope.

If you deal with anxiety like I do, this HuffPost piece has some great advice—nothing hugely revelatory, but lots of good reminders.

More tomorrow. Check in on a friend. Wash your hands … and try to make the most of this time.

Published in Daily Digest

For social media, it is the best of times; it is the worst of times.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, in these unsettling, frightening times, can be beautiful things. They offer us a way to share information, pool resources and, well, sort of be together at a time when we can’t actually be together.

However … Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, in these unsettling, frightening times, can also be heinous things, due to all the misinformation, ignorance and selfish stupidity spewed forth by certain individuals. Like the person who made this comment in some group the other day: “Imagine the possibilities and the happiness we could create if we just boycott the news.”

Sigh …

Comments like these—claims that all these COVID-19 precautions and closures taking place not because of the severe public threat, but instead because the media incited some sort of panic to “sell newspapers” or whatever—are offensive to me, because all of this isn’t “selling” newspapers; it’s killing them.

I belong to a couple of organizations of smaller, local independent media, and the overriding sentiments among the editors and publishers I know are 1) a push and desire to cover and serve our communities better than ever during this unprecedented time; and 2) complete fear over the fact that almost all our organizations are facing an existential threat right now.

Virtually overnight, the Independent lost about three-quarters of our advertising revenue, maybe more. I know of newspapers around the country that have suspended their print versions, because almost all the ads are gone. I know small online news publishers who work from home and are taking about not being able to pay their rent.

I say this not to complain, because a whole lot of others in varied businesses are in similar dire situations. However … those other varied businesses aren’t being blamed for causing this—hence my rant.

I’ll share more info with you in the coming days about the Independent’s plans, at least as they stand now. (I will tell you this, though: We are gonna be here serving this community. We aren’t going anywhere.)

Now, onto the news:

• Just announced: The city of Palm Springs has ordered all non-essential businesses to close. Don’t be surprised for the same thing to happen in our other valley cities here soon. They’re basically following San Francisco’s guidelines on what an essential business is; find the list of what’s exempted from that SF order here. Watch Councilwoman Christy Holstege’s page, among others, for updates.

• Two resources to share for you if you fear you may be sick: Call Eisenhower at 760-837-8988 or the Desert AIDS Project at 760-992-0407 before you go anywhere. More info on Eisenhower’s hotline is below.

• Just as we were about to post this, we received word that the Agua Caliente tribe is closing its two casinos, the Indian Canyons Golf Resort, Tahquitz Canyon and Indian Canyon. Employees will be paid for the time being. Watch http://www.aguacaliente-nsn.gov/ for updates.

Hey, freelancers and independent contractors: Check out this amazing “an aggregated list of FREE resources, opportunities, and financial relief options available to artists of all disciplines.

• Here’s a great to-do list on how to minimize risk while grocery shopping, from Consumer Reports.

• BusinessInsider.com has a great list of resources for restaurant workers and bartenders who need some help, including the Bartender Emergency Assistance Program. A toast to Jameson for donating $500,000 to it. 

The Desert Water Agency says there’s no need to hoard water.

• While we’re at it, stop hoarding toilet paper, you goons!

• You have an extra 90 days to pay your federal taxes.

AIDS/LifeCycle 2020 has been cancelled.

• Don’t forget to make sure your phone is as clean as possible

That’s enough for today. Wash your hands, and call up a loved one or three to see how they’re doing. More tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

Last night, I met friends for drinks at a bar on Arenas Road, in downtown Palm Springs. I haven’t been out much this week, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

As we drove down Arenas, unsuccessfully looking for a spot, I was surprised to see that most of the bars appeared to be packed.

“I don’t know if I have ever had more mixed feelings about something in my life,” I told my husband.

On one hand … I was elated to see that all of these small, locally owned businesses were getting much-needed business. It was good to see the servers and bartenders making good money. I was proud to be part of that needed cash infusion.

On the other hand … I kept thinking: Should all of us be out and about like this?

After drinks, we wandered down Palm Canyon Drive and got dinner at a local restaurant. While the street wasn’t dead, it certainly was getting quieter as the night went on.

Again, mixed feelings.

After I hit send on this Daily Digest, I am going to get ready to head to CVRep in Cathedral City, to do a review of The City of Conversation—the only play currently running in the valley that has not yet been shuttered by the pandemic. (More on this below.) Then I am going to meet friends at a charity art event, and go to dinner at Lulu. I am going to savor it like it’s the last good night on the town I have for a while … because it might very well be.

I hope it’s not. But it might very well be.

Here’s today’s news.

• The Desert AIDS Project just announced something huge: It’s opening a COVID-19 triage clinic.

This just arrived in my inbox, from CEO David Brinkman:

“In the next 48 hours DAP will take a bold step and we ask you to please have our backs. Last week, we opened our new clinics for DAP’s day-to-day healthcare operations, leaving our original clinic temporarily vacant. Today, I worked with our infectious disease doctors to develop an emergency plan of action to ensure the health and well-being of all we serve. The original clinic will be transformed this weekend into a specialized COVID-19 triage clinic. This will allow our medical experts to screen patients demonstrating symptoms in a quarantined space, while also allowing our non-symptomatic patients to continue having their health needs met without potential exposure.

“This is no small undertaking. Desert AIDS Project is the healthcare home to 7,000 of our friends and neighbors, most of whom live at 200 percent of the federal poverty level or below. And, the majority of our patients are of an age with significantly increased risk. We already are seeing a dramatic increase in inquiries and we must be able to meet the need as it grows in the coming weeks.

“This new clinic will cost DAP $575,000 to operate over the coming months.”

Wow.

See the full announcement—and make a donation while there, if you can—here.

• As for those plays: Yesterday, we reported that Desert TheatreWorks, Palm Canyon Theatre and CVRep were moving forward with their productions. This morning, however, Desert TheatreWorks announced last night’s production of The Producers would be its last until April 10, while Palm Canyon Theatre announced it was cancelling the final two planned performances this weekend of The Pajama Game. As of now, PCT plans on proceeding with the rest of its season—Sordid Lives is slated to open Thursday, March 26—but noted that this is a “very fluid situation.” This makes CVRep the last theater company standing: As of this writing, The City of Conversation will continue at least through this weekend.

Read more about all of this tomorrow in the second Installment of the Independent’s Pandemic Stories series. Yeah, I said yesterday that story would be available today … and then things changed. It’ll be worth the wait, I promise.

• All schools in Riverside County are closed for the next three weeks, per county Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser. More info here.

• Good news: During the closure, kids in need within the Palm Springs Unified School District can still get free meals. School buses will be delivering them on normal morning routes, or they can be picked up at schools. Get the details hereDesert Sands and Coachella Valley Unified are also making meals available to kids at schools.

• The United Way of the Desert has launched a very good information page, chock full of resources and phone numbers people may need during this crisis. View it here

• This is amazingly cool: Yesterday, we reported that the Certified Farmers’ Markets had been suspended for the time being. Today, the organizers have started posting direct contact info for the various vendors (with their blessing) on the Certified Farmers’ Market Facebook page, so people can directly contact and buy from the vendors if they so choose. Get all the 411 here.

• The Palm Springs Art Museum has decided to close for the time being. More info here.

That’s all for now. Please, support local businesses. Be a good neighbor. Stop hoarding crap. Be smart and diligent and caring. More tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

Hank Plante is a familiar name and face to Coachella Valley residents who follow the news. He’s a political analyst for NBC Palm Springs, and recently stepped down from The Desert Sun editorial board after a five-year stint.

Despite that familiarity, most people don’t realize how much of a trailblazer Plante has been throughout his career. The Detroit native has worked in print, radio and TV, and is best known for spending 25 years at KPIX-TV in San Francisco. He retired from the station in 2010 and later moved to the Coachella Valley.

Here’s where the trailblazing part comes in: Not only was Plante one of the first openly gay TV reporters in the country; at KPIX, he helped tell the world about the horror and pain of the burgeoning AIDS epidemic. The station’s “AIDS Lifeline” project, done in the early days of the epidemic, was honored with a Peabody Award in 1996—one of journalism’s highest honors. Plante and his work were featured in the film 5B, a recent documentary about the first-in-the-world AIDS ward at San Francisco General Hospital in the 1980s.

It’s because of this work that Plante is being honored by the Desert AIDS Project with the Arts and Activism Award at the Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards, on Saturday, Feb. 8. Plante recently spoke with the Independent about the award, his career and the state of journalism in 2020.

Congratulations on the award from the Desert AIDS Project. What was your response when you found out you were going to be honored at the Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards?

I was absolutely thrilled. It’s a big deal to me. The thing about being a reporter, as you know, is that when you do a story—even if it’s a great story that you’re proud of—it’s forgotten, because the news changes the next day or the next week. My AIDS reporting—I’m proud of it, but it was a long time ago, so to have it acknowledged again 30 or 35 years later, it really means the world to me.

Tell me how you first started covering the AIDS epidemic. Did that begin when you started at KPIX?

I did a few stories before then, but at KPIX—that’s where I worked for 25 years. San Francisco was ground zero of the AIDS epidemic, with more cases per capita than any spot in the Western world. I wanted to cover it, because it was more than a story to me. I was one of the first openly gay TV reporters in the country. These were my friends who were affected. Covering AIDS was a way for me to channel my anger and my grief over the disease. I didn’t feel quite so powerless. I felt like I could do something.

I’ve found that it’s difficult to cover something in which you have a personal stake. How did you balance that difficulty—covering a topic that had such personal meaning to you—with the fact that it needed to be covered?

You’re absolutely right. It wasn’t easy. There were many times when I would be at San Francisco General doing a story, and I’d have to go out in the hallway and compose myself, because I started to tear up. Or I’d be in somebody’s apartment who was dying, and I’d have to go out and compose myself—because I’m not there to cry. I’m not there to be an advocate, and I didn’t want to lose any credibility. … I hate the word “objective,” because I don’t think there is such a thing.

Thank you! Me too.

I mean, we see things through our own eyes. So that’s always going to be there, but still, I had to be a professional. I had to be a professional. So, yeah, it was difficult. It was very difficult.

Now, 30-plus years later, being HIV-positive is not a death sentence. Yes, people still die from the disease, but in most cases, it can be managed. Tell me about your perspective after covering this for so long—and how the AIDS world, for lack of a better term, has changed over the years.

I have to tell you, I am really, really thankful that I have lived long enough to see the beginning of the end of the disease. The worst of the epidemic, as you know, went for about 15 years—from 1981, when it was first reported on in the medical journals, through 1996, when protease inhibitors came along.

Since then, it’s been mostly good news medically. Now we have so many wonderful drugs, like Truvada, also known as PrEP, which pretty much prevents people from getting HIV if they take it regularly. Truvada is made by a California company, Gilead Sciences. Merck, another pharmaceutical company, is now developing an implant under the skin that dispenses similar drugs so that people don’t even have to take the pill. You just need the implant changed occasionally. That’ll be especially helpful in Third World countries, where taking medicine on a daily regimen isn’t always possible, for a lot of reasons.

Johnson and Johnson, which financed the film 5B that I’m so proud of, this year is testing a potential AIDS vaccine in the U.S. and in Europe; they’ve already had great results testing it in Africa. So we are seeing the beginning of the end of the epidemic, at least in America. There are serious problems and challenges for communities of color and in the Third World, so we can’t let our guard down. But this has been all good news for the last several years.

You’ve done a little bit of everything, working early in your career at The Washington Post, and doing both TV and radio. What are your thoughts on the state of journalism today, given the fact there have been so many job losses?

You caught me on the right day to ask that question, because I just learned that the chain of weeklies where I started as a reporter is shutting down. … They were around the beltway in D.C., and in Maryland and Virginia. This was a great chain of weekly publishing. Bob Woodward began there. I worked there. Ron Nessen, who became a White House press secretary, worked there. They turned out a lot of very successful people—but you know, this is the age we live in. It breaks my heart, and I don’t think that the readers understand what it’s costing them.

When it comes to the public arena, reporters are the only friends you’ve got. These politicians are not always looking out for your interests. … You think about the stories not getting covered. I had a political consultant in Sacramento tell me, “We love to see fewer reporters here in the state capital.” He said, this is a quote: “It’s like driving down Interstate 5, and there’s no California Highway Patrol.” The reader and the viewer—they are the ultimate losers in this.

What is going to save journalism?

I don’t know. So far, what seems to be working best is when these private, rich people buy newspapers. We’re seeing this in Los Angeles. Jeff Bezos of course, bought The Washington Post. We need angel investors to really step in. It’s not something that the government’s going to do, nor should they. I don’t know.

I do think that the tech companies have an obligation to help in some way. They’ve got to start paying somehow for the news that they, as they call it, “aggregate.” I call it plagiarize. You know, Google and Facebook—they call themselves tech companies, which is B.S. They’re not tech companies; they’re media companies. They’re in the advertising business, and they’re not paying for the content that they’re getting rich on. So that’s got to be fixed.

Is there anything that you’d like to add that I haven’t asked about?

I just believe in supporting local journalism. I’m really happy to talk to you. I like the work that you’re doing, and it’s not easy. I love community journalism. I think that local journalism, like what the CV Independent is doing, can be more impactful than national journalism. I saw this at The Desert Sun. We did editorials on issues that changed things. If we had done the same type of editorial in a bigger paper in L.A. or San Francisco, it wouldn’t have had any impact. When you get closer to the stories that are right here, you can make a big, big difference.

The 26th Annual Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards take place at 5:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 8, at the Palm Springs Convention Center, 277 N. Avenida Caballeros, in Palm Springs. Tickets start at $500. For tickets or more information, visit www.desertaidsproject.org/steve-chase-humanitarian-awards-2020.

Published in Features

Every year, when late August rolls around, and we start the first round of Best of Coachella Valley voting, the results announcement seems so far away.

Yet … the next three months fly by—and while the time is flying, a lot of work is being done.

Primary, that work is being done by you, the amazing readers of the Independent. To start, you tackle that first-round ballot—including almost 130 categories and NO pre-selected finalists, just a blank field to fill in next to each category.

After that goes on for several weeks, we here at the Independent get to work, and we tabulate all those first-round ballots to determine who you picked as our finalists. Then, in late September comes the announcement of each category’s three to six finalists (five in most cases)—and the start of the final round of voting. After four weeks of that, we here at the Independent check the results and begin putting together our special Best of Coachella Valley print edition, as well as this online version.

We say it every year, but it’s worth repeating: Man, you readers are good. Yeah, other publications and websites here in the Coachella Valley do readers’ polls—but the slate of winners and finalists you Independent readers come up with is so much better than the rest, partially because of how we do our polling (i.e., asking readers to vote just once in each round, to lessen the ballot-box-stuffing), but mostly because you, our readers, are smart and community-minded. This is a fantastically diverse, valley-wide selection of finalists and winners.

So, please join us to celebrate at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 18, at Copa Nightclub—again your selection this year as Best Nightclub—at 244 E. Amado Road, in Palm Springs, for the Best of Coachella Valley Awards Party. All of the winners present will receive certificates and have an opportunity to say thanks. Plus, we may have several surprises in store for everyone. I hope to see you there.

Congratulations to all of the winners and finalists … and welcome to the Best of Coachella Valley 2019-2020!

—Jimmy Boegle, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Arts

 

Best Art Gallery

TIE

CODA Gallery

Shag

 

Runners up:

3. Heather James Fine Art

4. Melissa Morgan Fine Art

5. Michael Weems Collection

 

Best Indoor Venue

McCallum Theatre

 

Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. The Show at Agua Caliente

4. Fantasy Springs Special Events Center

5. The Hood Bar and Pizza

 

Best Outdoor Venue

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

 

Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. Fantasy Springs Rock Yard

4. Empire Polo Club

5. Rancho Mirage Amphitheater

 

Best Local Arts Group/Organization

Palm Springs Art Museum

 

Runners up:

2. McCallum Theatre

3. Desert Rose Playhouse

4. CREATE Center for the Arts

5. Coachella Valley Symphony

 

Best Local Band

Giselle Woo and The Night Owls

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

The Flusters

Ocho Ojos

4. Avenida Music

5. Captain Ghost

 

Best Local DJ

DJ Galaxy

 

Runners up:

2. Alf Alpha

3. Alex Harrington

4. DJ Baz/Barry Martin

5. DJ Mr. D/Joe De Hoyos

 

Best Local Musician (Individual)

Jesika von Rabbit

 

Runners up:

2. Giselle Woo

3. Doug Van Sant

4. Courtney Chambers

5. Krystofer Do

 

Best Local Visual Artist

Adam Enrique Rodriguez

 

Runners up:

2. Shag

3. Sofia Enriquez

4. Chris Sanchez

5. Cristopher Cichocki

 

Best Movie Theater

Century La Quinta and XD

 

Runners up:

2. Mary Pickford Is D’Place

3. Camelot Theatres at the Palm Springs Cultural Center

4. Century Theatres at The River and XD

5. Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 and IMAX

 

Best Museum

Palm Springs Art Museum

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

Palm Springs Air Museum

Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert

4. Coachella Valley History Museum

 

Best Producing Theater Company

Palm Canyon Theatre

 

Runners up:

2. Coachella Valley Repertory

3. Desert Rose Playhouse

4. Desert Theatreworks

5. Desert Ensemble Theatre Company

6. Dezart Performs


Life in the Valley

 

Best Local Activist/Advocacy Group/Charity

TIE

Desert AIDS Project

Palm Springs Animal Shelter

 

Runners up:

3. Boys and Girls Clubs of Coachella Valley

4. Coachella Valley Rescue Mission

5. Shelter From the Storm

 

Best Gym

EOS Fitness

 

Runners up:

2. 24 Hour Fitness

3. World Gym

4. In-Shape

 

Best Yoga

Urban Yoga

 

Runners up:

2. Bikram Yoga Plus

3. Yoga Center Palm Desert

4. Power Yoga Palm Springs

5. Yoga Central

 

Best Bowling Alley

Fantasy Lanes Bowling

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Lanes

3. Canyon Lanes at Morongo

 

Best Sex Toy Shop

Skitzo Kitty

 

Runners up:

2. Not So Innocent

3. Gear Leather and Fetish

4. Mischief Cards and Gifts

 

Best Auto Repair

Exotic Car Service

 

Runners up:

2. A.G. Auto Care

3. Kennard’s Automotive

4. TIE

Cam Stone’s Automotive

Singh’s Automotive Repair

 

Best Car Wash

Quick Quack Car Wash

 

Runners up:

2. Elephant Car Wash

3. Executive Car Wash

4. Airport Quick Car Wash

5. Desert 100 Percent Hand Car Wash

 

Best Plant Nursery

Moller’s Garden Center

 

Runners up:

2. Moorten Botanical Garden

3. Vintage Nursery

4. Lotus Garden Center

5. Bob Williams Nursery

6. Sky Nursery

 

Best Pet Supplies

Bones-N-Scones

 

Runners up:

2. Petco

3. PetSmart

4. Pet Oasis

5. PoshPetCare

 

Best Annual Charity Event

Palm Springs Pride

 

Runners up:

2. Concert for Autism

3. McCallum Theatre Annual Gala

4. Red Dress/Dress Red (LGBT Community Center of the Desert)

5. Evening Under the Stars (AAP-Food Samaritans)

6. Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards (Desert AIDS Project)

 

Best Place to Gamble

Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa Rancho Mirage

3. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa Palm Springs (Spa Resort Casino)

4. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

5. Spotlight 29

 

Best Local TV News

KESQ News Channel 3

 

Runners up:

2. KMIR Channel 6/NBC Palm Springs

3. CBS Local 2

 

Best Local TV News Personality

Bryan Gallo, KMIR Channel 6/NBC Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Karen Devine, KESQ News Channel 3

3. Patrick Evans, CBS Local 2

4. Brooke Beare, KESQ News Channel 3

5. Jeff Stahl, KESQ News Channel 3

 

Best Radio Station

KGAY 106.5

 

Runners up:

2. 93.7 KCLB

3. Jammin’ 99.5

4. Mix 100.5

5. 107.3 Mod FM

 

Best Local Radio Personality

Bradley Ryan, Mix 100.5

 

Runners up:

2. John Taylor, KGAY 106.5

3. Bill Feingold, KNews 94.3 FM/104.7

4. Don Wardell, 107.3 Mod FM

 

Best Retail Music/Video

Palm Springs Vinyl Records and Collectibles

 

Runners up:

2. Record Alley

3. Guitar Center

4. Music Heals

 

Best Comics/Games Shop

Desert Oasis Comics

 

Runners up:

2. Game Stop

3. Comic Asylum

 

Best Hotel Pool

Ace Hotel and Swim Club

 

Runners up:

2. The Saguaro Palm Springs

3. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

4. Renaissance Palm Springs

5. Kimpton Rowan

 

Best Indoor Fun/Activity

Escape Room Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Get Air Trampoline Park

3. Glitch Palm Springs

4. Desert Rocks Indoor Climbing Gym

 

Best Marijuana Dispensary

Joy of Life Wellness Center

 

Runners up:

2. The Leaf El Paseo

3. Atomic Budz

4. Palm Springs Safe Access

5. Mother Earth’s Farmacy

 


Valley Professionals

 

Best Doctor

Dr. Maria Gopez

 

Runners up:

2. Dr. Bruce Ferguson

3. Gennady “Henry” Nosovitsky, PA

4. Dr. David Morris

5. Dr. Michael Jardula

 

Best Eye Care

Milauskas Eye Institute

 

Runners up:

2. Dr. David Esquibel (Desert Vision)

3. Dr. Greg Evans (Evans Eyecare)

4. Dr. Wallace Goldban (Desert Ophthalmology)

5. Dr. John K. Schofield

 

Best Dentist/Orthodontist

Dr. Scott Shepherd (Palm Springs Family and Cosmetic Dentistry)

 

Runners up:

2. Hospitality Dental and Orthodontics

3. Dr. Frank Hernandez (Hernandez Dental)

4. Dr. Gerald Chang

5. Vineyard Family Dental Office

 

Best Plastic Surgeon

Dr. Mark Sofonio

 

Runners up:

2. Dr. Timothy Jochen

3. Dr. Scott Aaronson

4. Dr. Bruce Chisholm

 

Best Attorney

Walter Clark

 

Runners up:

2. Barbara Barrett

3. Christopher Heritage

4. Brad Faber

5. Michael Knighten

 

Best Air Conditioning Service

Comfort Air

 

Runners up:

2. Timo’s Air Conditioning and Heating

3. Esser Air Conditioning and Heating

4. General Air Conditioning

5. Simmons Air

 

Best Personal Trainer

Jaime Jimenez

 

Runners up:

2. Ryann McMillon

3. Brian Guzman

4. Brandon Wertz

 

Best Chiropractor

Dr. Gina Davis

 

Runners up:

2. Dr. Jim Cox

3. Dr. Susan Brennan

4. Dr. Navid Nazemi

5. Dr. Stephen Krupey

 

Best Real Estate Agent

TIE

Barbara Carpenter

Paul Zapala

 

Runners up:

3. Shann Carr

4. Paula LaBellarti

5. Jason Allen

 

Best Public Servant

Rep. Raul Ruiz

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs City Councilman Geoff Kors

3. Sheriff Chad Bianco

4. Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia

5. Palm Desert City Councilman Sabby Jonathan


Fashion and Style

 

Best Clothing Store (Locally Owned)

Trina Turk

 

Runners up:

2. R&R Menswear

3. Wil Stiles

4. Kimbals

5. Division

 

Best Local Resale/Vintage Clothing

Revivals

 

Runners up:

2. Angel View

3. Goodwill

4. Plato’s Closet

 

Best Furniture Store

Mathis Brothers

 

Runners up:

2. Revivals

3. H3K Design

4. Mor Furniture for Less

5. Bob’s Discount Furniture

 

Best Antiques/Collectables Store

Misty’s Consignments

 

Runners up:

2. Sunny Dunes Antiques Mall

3. The Estate Sale Co.

4. Victoria’s Attic

 

Best Jeweler/Jewelry Store

Tiffany and Co.

 

Runners up:

2. El Paseo Jewelers

3. Leeds and Son

4. The Fine Jewelry Bar

 

Best Hair Salon

J. Russell! The Salon

 

Runners up:

2. Heads Up Hair Designs

3. 18|8 Fine Men’s Salon

4. Turquoise Salon

5. Dishwater Blonde Salon

 

Best Spa in a Resort/Hotel

Sunstone Spa at Agua Caliente

 

Runners up:

2. Spa at the Ritz Carlton

3. Spa La Quinta at the La Quinta Resort

4. The Spa at Desert Springs (JW Marriott)

5. Agua Serena Spa at Hyatt Regency Indian Wells

 

Best Day Spa (Non-Resort/Hotel)

Massage Envy

 

Runners up:

2. Studio M Salon and Spa

3. Bliss Chakra Spa

 

Best Florist

My Little Flower Shop

 

Runners up:

2. Indio Florist

3. Jensen’s Foods

4. Cathedral City Floral Designs

5. Vaso Bello Celebrations

 

Best Tattoo Parlor

Anarchy and Ink Tattoo

 

Runners up:

2. Bloodline Tattoo and Body Piercing

3. Blue Rose Tattoo

4. Adornment Piercing and Private Tattoo

5. Strata Tattoo Lab

 

Best Eyeglass/Optical Retailer

Costco

 

Runners up:

2. Desert Vision Optometry

3. Ooh La La De Paris Eyewear

4. LensCrafters

5. One Price Optical


Outside!

 

Best Public Garden

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

 

Runners up:

2. Sunnylands

3. TIE

Moorten Botanical Garden

Palm Desert Civic Center Park

5. Wellness Park at Ruth Hardy Park

 

Best Place for Bicycling

CV Link

 

Runners up:

2. Joshua Tree

3. Bear Creek Path (La Quinta)

4. Tahquitz Creek Loop

 

Best Recreation Area

Joshua Tree

 

Runners up:

2. Whitewater Preserve

3. Mount San Jacinto State Park (Top of the Tram)

4. Palm Desert Civic Center Park

5. Lake Cahuilla Recreation Area

 

Best Hike

Bump and Grind Trail

 

Runners up:

2. Tahquitz Canyon Trail

3. Mount San Jacinto State Park (Top of the Tram)

4. Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve

5. The Cross Trail Loop

 

Best Park

Palm Desert Civic Center Park

 

Runners up:

2. Ruth Hardy Park

3. La Quinta Civic Center Park

4. Demuth Park

5. Sunrise Park

 

Best Outdoor/Camping Gear Store

Big 5 Sporting Goods

 

Runners up:

2. Dick’s Sporting Goods

3. Yellow Mart

4. Nomad Ventures

 

Best Bike Shop

Palm Springs/Palm Desert Cyclery

 

Runners up:

2. Tri-A-Bike

3. Joel’s Bicycle Shop

4. BikeMan

 

Best Sporting Goods

Big 5 Sporting Goods

 

Runners up:

2. Dick’s Sporting Goods

3. Yellow Mart

4. Pete Carlson’s Golf and Tennis

 

Best Public Golf Course

Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort

 

Runners up

2. Desert Willow Golf Resort

3. Eagle Falls Golf Course

4. Classic Club Golf

5. Mission Lakes Country Club

 


For the Kids

 

Best Playground

Palm Desert Civic Center Park

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Civic Center Park

3. Demuth Park

4. Ruth Hardy Park

 

Best Place to Buy Toys

Mr. G’s Toys and Expressions

 

Runners up:

2. Target

3. Walmart

4. JadaBug’s Kids Boutique

 

Best Kids’ Clothing Store

Target

 

Runners up:

2. Old Navy

3. JadaBug’s Kids Boutique

4. Carter’s

5. The Children’s Place

 

Best Restaurant for Kids

Chuck E. Cheese’s

 

Runners up:

2. Red Robin

3. Old Spaghetti Factory

4. Shakey’s Pizza

5. Billy Q’s

 

Best Place for Family Fun

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

 

Runners up:

2. Boomers

3. Escape Room Palm Springs

4. Get Air Trampoline Park

5. Chuck E. Cheese’s

 

Best Place for a Birthday Party

Fantasy Lanes Bowling Alley

 

Runners up:

2. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

3. Get Air Trampoline Park

4. Chuck E. Cheese’s

5. Shakey’s Pizza


Food and Restaurants

 

Best Casual Eats

TIE

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

Lulu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

3. Bongo Johnny’s

4. Kitchen 86 + Bar

5. Billy Q’s

 

Best Caterer

Lulu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge

3. Dash and a Handful

4. Lynn Hammond

5. Fusion Flair

 

Best Diner

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Bongo Johnny’s

3. Keedy’s Fountain Grill

4. Rick’s Restaurant

5. John’s Restaurant

 

Best Organic Food Store

Sprouts Farmers Market

 

Runners up:

2. Clark’s Nutrition and Natural Foods

3. Whole Foods

4. Nature’s Health Food and Cafe

5. Harvest Health Foods

 

Best Delicatessen

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

 

Runners up:

2. TKB Bakery and Deli

3. Real Italian Deli

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Bristol Farms

 

Best Custom Cakes

Over the Rainbow

 

Runners up:

2. Nothing Bundt Cakes

3. Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

4. Pastry Swan Bakery

5. Jensen’s Foods

 

Best Desserts

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

 

Runners up:

2. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

3. Nothing Bundt Cakes

4. Over the Rainbow

5. Billy Reed’s

6. Jensen’s Foods

 

Best Ice Cream/Shakes

Great Shakes

 

Runners up:

2. Brandini Toffee

3. Lappert’s Ice Cream

4. Coco Freeze

5. Kreem

 

Best Date Shake

Shields Date Garden

 

Runners up:

2. Hadley’s

3. Great Shakes

4. Oasis Date Gardens

5. Windmill Market

 

Best Frozen Yogurt

Yogurtland

 

Runners up:

2. Jus Chillin’

3. Tutti Frutti

4. Beach House

 

Best Bakery

Townie Bagels, Bakery and Café

 

Runners up:

2. TKB Bakery and Deli

3. Aspen Mills

4. Frankie’s Italian Bakery, Café and Supper Club

5. Carousel Bakery

 

Best Barbecue

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

 

Runners up:

2. Smoke Tree BBQ

3. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

4. Jackalope Ranch

5. Zobo and Meester’s

 

Best Burger

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Tyler’s Burgers

3. Smokin’ Burgers

4. Bongo Johnny’s

5. Tony’s Burgers

 

Best Veggie Burger

Native Foods Café

 

Runners up:

2. Lulu California Bistro

3. Bongo Johnny’s

4. Palm Greens Café

5. Grand Central Palm Springs

 

Best Sandwich

TKB Bakery and Deli

 

Runners up:

2. The Sandwich Spot

3. Manhattan in the Desert

4. Bongo Johnny’s

5. The Lunchbox

6. Billy Q’s

 

Best Pizza

Bill’s Pizza

 

Runners up:

2. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

3. Blaze Pizza

4. Upper Crust Pizza

5. Billy Q’s

 

Best Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings

 

Runners up:

2. Wingstop

3. Bongo Johnny’s

4. Jackalope Ranch

5. Billy Q’s

 

Best Bagels

Townie Bagels, Bakery and Café

 

Runners up:

2. Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

3. Panera Bread

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Bristol Farms

 

Best Smoothies

Fresh Juice Bar

 

Runners up:

2. Jamba Juice

3. Koffi

4. Coco Freeze

5. Big Juice Bar

 

Best Buffet

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Grand Palms Buffet at Agua Caliente

3. Fresh Grill Buffet at Fantast Springs

4. Emperor Buffet

5. Potrero Canyon Buffet at Morongo

 

Best Local Coffee Roaster

Koffi

 

Runners up:

2. Joshua Tree Coffee Company

3. Coachella Valley Coffee Company

 

Best Coffee Shop

Koffi

 

Runners up:

2. Gre Coffeehouse and Art Gallery

3. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

4. IW Coffee

5. Townie Bagels, Bakery and Café

 

Best Tea

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

 

Runners up:

2. Koffi

3. Grand Central Palm Springs

4. Starbucks

 

Best California Cuisine

Lulu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. Spencer’s Restaurant

3. POM California Cuisine at Fantasy Springs

4. Acqua California Bistro

5. Bellatrix at the Classic Club

 

Best Breakfast

TIE

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

Wilma and Frieda’s

 

Runners up:

3. Elmer’s

4. Broken Yolk Café

5. Bongo Johnny’s

6. Spencer’s Restaurant

 

Best Brunch

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Spencer’s Restaurant

3. The Tropicale

4. Lulu California Bistro

5. Bongo Johnny’s

 

Best Chinese

P.F. Chang’s

 

Runners up:

2. JOY at Fantasy Springs

3. Palm Tree Palace

4. New Fortune Asian Cuisine

5. Soul of China

 

Best Greek

Evzin Mediterranean Cuisine

 

Runners up:

2. Athena Gyro

3. Nina’s Greek Cuisine

4. Koutouki Greek Estiatorio

5. Yianni’s Taverna

 

Best French

Le Vallauris Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. French Corner Cafe

3. L’Atelier Café

4. Cuistot Restaurant

5. Si Bon

 

Best Indian

Monsoon Indian Cuisine

 

Runners up:

2. India Oven

3. Sam’s Indian Food and Pizza

 

Best Italian

Mario’s Italian Café

 

Runners up:

2. Ristorante Mamma Gina

3. Johnny Costa’s Ristorante

4. Il Giardino

5. Il Corso

 

Best Japanese

Kobe Japanese Steakhouse

 

Runners up:

2. Shabu Shabu Zen

3. Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar

4. Sandfish Sushi and Whiskey

5. Taka Shin

 

Best Korean

JOY at Fantasy Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Maru Korean B.B.Q. and Grill

3. Umami Seoul

4. You Grill Korean BBQ

 

Best Sushi

Dragon Sushi

 

Runners up:

2. Misaki Sushi and Griill

3. Sandfish Sushi and Whiskey

4. Joyce’s Sushi

5. Taka Shin

 

Best Seafood

Fisherman’s Market and Grill

 

Runners up:

2. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

3. Pacifica Seafood Restaurant

4. Mitch’s on El Paseo

5. Mariscoco's Culiacan

 

Best Steaks/Steakhouse

Ruth’s Chris Steak House

 

Runners up:

2. The Steakhouse at Agua Caliente

3. LG’s Prime Steakhouse

4. Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar

5. Outback Steakhouse

 

Best Thai

Thai Smile Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. My Thai

3. Pepper’s Thai Cuisine

4. Thai House

5. Le Basil

 

Best Vietnamese

Pho Vu

 

Runners up:

2. 533 Viet Fusion

3. Rooster and the Pig

4. JOY at Fantasy Springs

5. Pho of the Desert

 

Best Vegetarian/Vegan

Chef Tanya’s Kitchen

 

Runners up:

2. Native Foods Café

3. Palm Greens Café

4. Luscious Lorraine’s

5. The Sandbox Kitchen

 

Best Upscale Dining

Spencer’s Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge

3. The Tropicale

4. Johannes

5. Jillian’s

 

Best Outdoor Seating

The Tropicale

 

Runners up:

2. Spencer’s Restaurant

3. Jackalope Ranch

4. Bongo Johnny’s

5. Bellatrix at the Classic Club

 

Best Late-Night Restaurant

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. The Tropicale

3. Bongo Johnny’s

4. King’s Highway at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club

5. Paul Bar/Food

 

Best Mexican

Las Casuelas Terraza

 

Runners up:

2. Pueblo Viejo Grill

3. Tac/Quila

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. La Tablita

 

Best Salsa

Rincon Norteño

 

Runners up:

2. Las Casuelas Terraza

3. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Tac/Quila

 

Best Burrito

Las Casuelas Terraza

 

Runners up:

2. El Mirasol

3. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Loco Charlie’s

 


Spirits and Nightlife

 

Best Beer Selection

Yard House

 

Runners up:

2. Burgers and Beer

3. Draughtsman

4. The Beer Hunter

5. Eureka!

 

Best Local Brewery

Coachella Valley Brewing Co.

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Brewing Co.

3. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

4. Desert Beer Company

 

Best Place to Play Pool/Billiards

The Hood Bar and Pizza

 

Runners up:

2. Neil’s Lounge

3. The Beer Hunter

4. Henry’s Sports Bar and Grill

5. Bart Lounge

 

Best Cocktail Menu

TRIO Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. The Tropicale

3. Tonga Hut

4. Workshop Kitchen + Bar

5. Seymour’s

 

Best Craft Cocktails

Paul Bar/Food

 

Runners up:

2. Seymour’s

3. Truss and Twine

4. Libation Room

5. Del Rey at the Villa Royale

 

Best Gay/Lesbian Bar/Club

Hunters

 

Runners up:

2. Toucan’s Tiki Lounge

3. Blackbook

4. Chill Bar Palm Springs

5. The Roost

6. Streetbar

 

Best Happy Hour

La Quinta Cliffhouse

 

Runners up:

2. Lulu California Bistro

3. The Tropicale

4. TIE

Il Corso

Kitchen 86 + Bar

 

Best Dive Bar

The Hood Bar and Pizza

 

Runners up:

2. Tool Shed

3. Neil’s Lounge

4. Desert Fox

5. Club 5

 

Best Margarita

Las Casuelas Terraza

 

2. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

3. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

4. El Mirasol

5. Tac/Quila

 

Best Martini

The Tropicale

 

Runners up:

2. Lulu California Bistro

3. Bongo Johnny’s

4. TIE

Del Rey at the Villa Royale

Zin American Bistro

 

Best Nightclub

Copa Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Hunters

3. Chill Bar Palm Springs

4. Toucan’s Tiki Lounge

5. Bart Lounge

 

Best Sports Bar

The Beer Hunter

 

Runners up:

2. Big Rock Pub

3. AMP Sports Lounge

4. Revel Public House

5. Billy Q’s

6. Henry’s Sports Bar and Grill

 

Best Wine Bar

Zin American Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. V Wine Lounge

3. TIE

Dead or Alive

Twelve Cocktails Above at Fantasy Springs

5. La Fe Wine Bar

 

Best Wine/Liquor Store

Total Wine and More

 

Runners up:

2. BevMo!

3. Desert Wine Shop on 111

4. Bouschet

5. Larry’s Wine and Spirits

 

Best Bar Ambiance

The Tropicale

 

Runners up:

2. Paul Bar/Food

3. TRIO Restaurant

4. Stacy’s Palm Springs

5. Del Rey at the Villa Royale

Published in Readers' Picks

After meeting numerous famous and powerful people during almost 25 years in journalism, I’m rarely star-struck or intimidated these days.

In fact, it’s happened to me just twice since I’ve called the Coachella Valley home. The first time was when I met Joyce Bulifant—semi-regular on the classic Match Game back in the 1970s, and co-star of one of my favorite movies ever, Airplane.

The second time was when I met Barbara Keller.

For the life of me, I have no idea why I was starstruck when I met Joyce Bulifant—I love her, but I’ve been left unflummoxed by bigger stars before. But I do understand why I was intimidated by Barbara Keller, when I somehow found myself sitting next to her at an Equality California Awards host committee meeting: I knew I was in the presence of a person who was truly great.

Barbara Keller passed away at the age of 75 on Monday, April 15.

Barbara was as kind and welcoming as a person could be, but I was star-struck by her reputation, her gravitas, her works. I knew how many local nonprofits and charities she supported—with her money and a whole lot of her time. I’d heard tales about her extreme kindness from friends. And I’d known, by seeing her with my own eyes at various events (almost always with her fantastic husband, Jerry), how simply fabulous she was.

It’s common when someone well-known dies for them to be showered with exaggerated levels of praise and accolades. However, regarding Barbara Keller, there’s no exaggeration: She deserves each and every bit of the love and appreciation she’s received. She was truly a giant of the Coachella Valley. Her death is a huge loss to the community.

“This morning we lost our one and only Barbara Keller. The love she brought to the Desert AIDS Project family changed us forever,” said Desert AIDS Project CEO David Brinkman, in a statement on the day she passed away. “She had been our board’s leader, the Steve Chase’s chief and our clients and mission’s ultimate champion. Words fail to express the gratitude I have for having been the recipient of her friendship, love and mentorship. Barbara Keller equals humanitarian.”

My sincere sympathies go out to Jerry and the rest of her family, as well as her work family at Lulu California Bistro and Acqua California Bistro.

We’ll have more on the life of Barbara Keller in the Independent soon. In the meantime, I invite you to pick up the May 2019 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, hitting the streets this week. As always, thanks for reading.

Published in Editor's Note

When Senate Bill 239 took effect last year, it made knowingly spreading the HIV virus a misdemeanor rather than a felony.

Opponents of the bill, which was signed into law by former Gov. Jerry Brown, were furious, speculating it could lead to an increase in HIV transmissions. However, people on the front lines of the fight against HIV/AIDS said the new law was a much-needed step in the right direction, considering treatment and prevention methods have changed significantly since the AIDS epidemic began in 1981.

“If you criminalize HIV, it discourages people from getting tested,” said Carl Baker, the director of legal and legislative affairs for the Desert AIDS Project. “Under the old statute, if you didn’t know your status, you didn’t commit a crime (if you passed the HIV virus to someone else). It was better to be dumb and spread the disease than to be smart and prevent the disease.”

Samuel Garrett-Pate, the communications director for Equality California, said via e-mail that potentially criminalizing those with HIV proved to be bad public policy.

“HIV-specific criminal laws hurt rather than help,” Garrett-Pate said. “There is no evidence that laws targeting people living with HIV for criminal penalties actually reduce the number of new cases of HIV or improve public health in any way. In fact, research suggests that such laws may be a disincentive to testing and disclosure of one’s HIV status and a barrier to seeking care for people living with HIV. In addition, these laws may give HIV-negative people a false sense of security with respect to the health of their sexual partners, thereby encouraging riskier behaviors and more sexually transmitted infections. … HIV decriminalization encourages HIV testing, treatment and disclosure to sexual partners.”

Baker said only one group of people in recent years faced prosecution.

“The only real people who were prosecuted in the last 15 to 20 years were sex workers,” Baker said. “It wasn’t used for the everyday person; it was only people who were picked up for prostitution. That was the targeted audience. I can see the rationale, because if you’re in the sex industry, you’re going to spread it to a lot more people than Mr. Smith on the street.

“But way back in the ’80s, there were some bad actors. There was a male who was infected and was intentionally sleeping with women without telling them. There’s always that one bad actor.”

Garrett-Pate said the law was used to disproportionately target women and people of color.

“Overall, 800 people came into contact with the California criminal-justice system from 1988 to June 2014 either under an HIV-related law or under the misdemeanor exposure law, as it related to a person’s HIV-positive status,” Garrett-Pate wrote. “Black and Latino people made up two-thirds of the people who came into contact with the criminal-justice system based on their HIV status, even though just half of the population living with HIV/AIDS in California is black or Latino. Women made up 43 percent of those who came into contact with the criminal-justice system based on their HIV-positive status, even though just 13 percent of the HIV-positive population in California is women. … White men were significantly more likely to be released and not charged.”

Baker emphasized that testing and public-health awareness are the best ways to battle HIV—not criminalization.

“We want people to be tested and to go into treatment; then they are not infectious and are undetectable,” Baker said. “That’s our goal to ending this epidemic. The combination of Truvada and antiretrovirals keep the likelihood at 99.8 percent of the virus never being transferred. It’s as effective as using a condom. By having something on the books that discouraged people from finding out their status and pushing them underground, that was going to encourage more behaviors that will spread the virus.”

Baker said that despite the progress the Desert AIDS Project and other public-health groups have made in battling HIV, minority groups remain the most at risk.

“The spike in transmissions (has been) in the transgender population and in the minority populations in Riverside County that don’t identify as gay. They use the term ‘men having sex with men,’ because they could be married or have a one-off with another man, and they aren’t out,” Baker said. “That’s the issue, and those are the people we want to get tested, because they aren’t identifying as gay and think they don’t have anything to worry about. Those are the hardest people to get tested—and where the virus is blowing up.”

For information on free and confidential HIV testing, visit gettestedcoachellavalley.org.

Published in Local Issues

Darrell Tucci is the chief development officer for the Desert AIDS Project, and he spearheads D.A.P.’s annual Dining Out for Life fundraiser, taking place this year on Thursday, April 25.

“Last year, we challenged people to become part of the B.L.D. Club—to commit to having breakfast, lunch and dinner at Dining Out for Life restaurants,” Tucci said, adding that D.A.P. is issuing the same challenge this year.

I am proud to say I was part of last year’s B.L.D. Club … and then some. In fact, I went a little crazy (in a good way) last year during Dining Out for Life: I wound up dining—or, at the very least, buying a drink or a snack—at 11 different participants last year, starting with coffee and a scone at Ristretto, and ending my night with a Maker’s Mark and Coke at the Tool Shed.

A lot of people joined me in meeting D.AP.’s challenge, and then some: Due to the generosity of the 75 participating bars and restaurants, Dining Out for Life last year raised a whopping $280,000 for D.A.P.—$50,000 more than the year before.

If you’re unfamiliar with Dining Out for Life, here’s how it goes: Local bars and restaurants agree to donate at least 33 percent of their sales on Thursday, April 25, to D.A.P. It’s that simple. Really. While D.A.P. volunteers will be present at most of the participating venues during the day—offering “I Dined” stickers and giving people the opportunity to make extra donations if they’d like—all people need to do to help D.A.P. is dine and/or drink at one of the participating restaurants and bars.

Find a complete and constantly updated list of participants at www.diningoutforlife.com/city/greater-palm-springs.

Dining Out for Life is held on behalf of HIV/AIDS service organizations in 45 cities across North America on the last Thursday each April. Even though the Coachella Valley is one of the smallest markets—if not the smallest market—that participates, last year’s $280,000 was the second-largest amount raised in any city. Only Denver, which had three times as many restaurants participating, raised more money.

Why is Dining Out for Life so successful in the Coachella Valley?

“We have a secret sauce that’s a combination of a few important ingredients,” Tucci said. “First, the restaurateurs in our valley really embody our valley’s philanthropic nature.

“Second, this valley has been at the forefront of the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic since day one, and today’s inhabitants embody that. At Dining Out for Life, we see a dedication from attendees that’s almost like the dedication people have when going to vote.

“People wore that ‘I Dined’ sticker as a badge of honor, just like the ‘I Voted’ sticker on Election Day,” Tucci said about last year’s Dining Out for Life event. “We’d never ran out of stickers before.”

Tucci isn’t exaggerating when he touts the generosity of local restaurateurs; last year, the top three fundraising restaurants in North America—yes, the entire continent—were all located in Palm Springs: Spencer’s Restaurant, Lulu California Bistro and Trio Restaurant.

Then there are the smaller restaurants that give literally everything they have, and then some, on Dining Out for Life day. Tucci said he was amazed, for example, by the generosity of the Holiday House Palm Springs last year: Not only did the restaurant give 100 percent; the owner then matched that 100 percent donation. And at Rooster and the Pig, the restaurant gave 100 percent—and the staff donated all of their tips for the day, too. Other 100 percent participants last year included The Barn at Sparrows Lodge, Ristretto and—at 110 percent—Townie Bagels.

“All of these restaurants that participate, whether they’re giving 33 percent or 100 percent—not one of them is making money that day,” Tucci said.

This incredible generosity is needed more than ever by the Desert AIDS Project. While the origination remains one of the top HIV/AIDS service organizations in the world, D.A.P. is now also much more: As a Federally Qualified Health Center, anyone in need of primary medical care can walk in D.A.P.’s doors and become a client, getting access to doctors, prescriptions, dental care and behavior-health care. In fact, roughly half of D.A.P.’s clients today are not living with HIV.

Seeing as more than half of the Coachella Valley’s residents now live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, D.A.P. is struggling to make sure everyone who needs quality health care in the valley can get it. To meet the demand, D.A.P. is in the midst of a $20 million expansion, slated for completion in 2020, that will more than double the organization’s patient capacity. When the expansion is complete, D.A.P.’s 60,490-square-foot campus will be able to serve 8,000 patients, up from 3,900 in 2017. The dental clinic will be able to help 1,700 people, compared to 814 in 2017, while the behavioral-health-patient capacity will rise from 583 to 1,200.

Every dollar raised during Dining Out for Life makes a huge difference. As for the aforementioned scone and coffee at Ristretto I bought to kick off Dining Out for Life last year … with Ristretto giving 110 percent of that sale to D.A.P., that $8 purchase wound up paying for three safer-sex kits. I went to Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill for dinner with two friends; we spent $120, and with the restaurant giving 50 percent, $60 went to D.A.P. to pay for three free, confidential HIV tests. I dropped in and had a drink with a party of about a dozen or so friends, most of whom were dining there, at Zin American Bistro; seeing as Zin donated about 75 percent of that check, about $340 went to D.A.P.—enough to house a low-income client for a whole month.

Follow me via the Coachella Valley Independent’s Facebook page on Thursday, April 25, as I try to match or even surpass my 11 stops from last year—and join me in visiting as many Dining Out for Life participants as possible. After all, the Coachella Valley has a lot of work to do this year to match the giving of last year.

For more information, including a complete list of Dining Out for Life participants, visit www.diningoutforlife.com/city/greater-palm-springs. If you know of a restaurant that you’d like to see participate in Dining Out for Life, get information at www.desertaidsproject.org/2019-dining-out-for-life.

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