Cover Story

BeachBear Weekend: NOPE

Written by Richard Hack

As those of us in the LGBT community know, Fort Lauderdale loves a good party. And one of the most color- ful for the past four years has been the annual Beach Bear Weekend. Started in May of 2012 by a group headed by Bob Young, the event was designed to appeal to bears, otters, wolves and cubs.

Bears, of course, are a jovial lot. Large, hairy, bellied creatures of the night who know how to have a fine time. Lest you forget, otters are bears without much of the gut and most of the hair. Wolves are muscled bears who strut around expecting appreciation of their masculinity, and typically get it—particularly from cubs, the younger set.

Normally around this time of year, we’d be preparing for the annual onslaught of bears the first week of May; and indeed, if you check on BeachBearWeekend. com, the website informs us that the event is back for its fifth year. It lists a variety of captivating, if not super original, events for the party, slated to run between May 5-9 (coincidentally the same weekend as the Lauderdale Air show, Fleet Week, and Mother’s Day).

According to the website, a Beach Bear Weekend Pass costs $129.99 (recently reduced from $169.00). “Beach Bear Weekend General Admission Pass – Includes General Admission Entry to Pool Parties, Beach Parties, Nightlife Events.” The deluxe Beach Bear VIP Week- end Pass is $209.00 (down from the original $269.00). This is supposed to provide “VIP Access to Pool Parties, Beach Parties, Nightlife Events, and more.”

The “Co-Host hotel” is listed as the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort where a “King Studio Pack- age” or a “Queen Studio Package” will run you $1,581.00 (discounted from the original $1,861.00). This package which includes “Free Shipping” is supposed to get you invited to “Beach Parties,” “Pool Parties, “Nightsly Events” and “After-Hours”.

Word that the event was having some credibility issues began to creep into the bear community when it was learned that some of the events listed on the schedule were actually not happening. Well, all of the events actually.

Yes, there will no doubt be bears assembled on Sebastian Beach, where a “Beach Bear Weekend Beach Party” was scheduled each day from 12 pm to 4 pm. Being held on a public beach means that anyone can go—bears included—for free. No pass needed.

A similar problem surfaces with the “Registration Party” at Casablanca Cafe? across from the Beach from 4 pm to 7 pm. Casablanca’s General Manager David Townsend confirmed that he was contacted by the new organizer, Craig Jungwirth, but there was no official arrangement solidified for a Happy Hour party. “I told this guy he would have to put down a deposit,” Townsend said, “and that was something that he was unwilling to do.”

Happy Hour does go on at Casa- blanca Cafe?, but once again, it’s a free event. First come, first serve.

Next on the schedule is a party t Village Pub, labeled the “Official Opening Party” at which “drink specials all night with BeachBear Weekend Tags/Passes” are supposed to be offered. Trouble is, the Village Pub owners don’t want to be involved with the organizer and have posted notices to reinforce their non-participation.

Just to be clear, Village Pub has withdrawn its sponsorship of this year’s BeachBear event. Mr. Jung-wirth, the owner/organizer of this event, was asked to remove our logo from the event page, but has refused. Village Pub is a proud supporter of the Bear Community in south Florida. As always, we welcome the patronage of any of its attendees, but do not feel that it is in the best interest of Village Pub to be a sponsor of the event under its current leadership.

Since Village Pub doesn’t charge a cover and no special drink discounts are planned for BeachBear Weekend passholders, this is another non-event open to the public.

On Friday, May 6, there’s more Sebastian Beach and Casablanca Cafe? non-events as well as another Village Pub non-existant Happy Hour Party for Beach Bear Tags/ Pass holders.

At 9 pm to midnight, the website advertises a “Beach Rooftop Party” at the Snooze Hotel Rooftop deck. Rob, owner of the Snooze Hotel confirms that while Jungwirth had indeed placed a deposit with the hotel, that that deposit was returned to Jungwirth “after some disturbing meetings occurred” that convinced the Snooze Hotel that the event organizer was unstable and an “unreliable business partner.” The Rooftop Deck will not be open on May 6 to any bears, tags or no tags.

Saturday’s events include a $49.99 brunch at the Ritz Carlton Hotel from 10 am to 2 pm. The restaurant at the Ritz Carlton is a fancy affair known as the Burlock Coast. Gorgeous restaurant, refined dining and a great ocean view.

While the concept of hairy bears in tank tops having brunch at the Ritz Carlton has all the essential ingredients for a comedy series, the restaurant isn’t even open at 10 am on Saturday. Its actual brunch starts at 11:30 and is a rather pricey a la carte spread that is, in fact, incred- ible. Just not available for $49.99 and certainly not at 10 am.

The Burlock Coast’s general manager Jimmy Choi remembers Jungwirth, who enquired about using the facility. Once again, however, he refused to put down a deposit to reserve the space, and as Jimmy Choi remembers was “disagreeable” at best.

According to the official schedule, there is a event planned Saturday night at Hunters Nightclub in Wilton Manors beginning at 9 pm to 3 am with DJ Neon the GlowGo Bear. Sorry bears, otters, wolves and cubs, Ken Hunter who owns the club posted his own warning about the event.

Let me clarify Hunters Fort Lauderdale’s position regarding The Beach Bear Weekend. We are not sponsoring the event. In the past, Hunters Fort Lauderdale has always sponsored and supported Beach Bear Weekend. Our commit- ment to the Bear Community has been long and dedicated. Hunt- ers Nightclubs through the years has sponsored many Bear events both in Palm Springs and in Fort Lauderdale. Because of Beach Bears organizer, the late start date and lack of events offered by The Beach Bear Weekend this year we have decided not to sponsor this years Beach Bear Weekend. Several weeks ago we had asked the orga- nizer to remove any reference to Hunters Fort Lauderdale from the Beach Bear Weekend’s website. We welcome any and all event goers to Hunters Fort Lauderdale. (Come as you are. No tags or passes required.)

Further complicating matters is that the “Co-Host Hotel,” the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort has no knowledge of Jungwirth or
the BeachBear Weekend, has not blocked rooms in anticipation of the event, and will not honor any book- ings not made through the hotel or its authorized websites. Addition- ally, a four-night stay at the hotel, should it be available for that week- end, would cost hundreds of dollars less than the $1,581 price being offered by Jungwirth.

When the Florida Agenda attempted to reach out to Jungwirth, we discovered he had been served with an eviction notice at his studio apartment on Alahambra Street for non-payment of $1,100 in rent to his landlord James Ostryniec.

Additionally, Jungwirth had a permanent injuction issued on February 2, 2016 to prevent him from getting within 500 feet of his former employer Matrix Systems Inc. Seems he was seen making threatening movements with a power drill against his former coworkers.

Suffice it to say, the end of the BeachBear Weekend story has yet to be completely told. At the moment, however–BeachBear Weekend: Nope.