Roosters Gets City Grant; Owner Promises to Reopen

HG Roosters after the fire in May 2020. Photo via HG Roosters, Facebook.

A.J. Wasson is determined to rebuild HG Roosters. When the iconic bar burnt down in 2020, it was a devastating blow to the local LGBTQ community, and some have doubted it would ever reopen.

But recently the rebuilding got a big boost when the City of West Palm Beach granted the project $165,975.

“The city really stepped up the plate for us. We didn’t expect to get the full $100,000. The mayor stepped in and exceeded that cap. We were shocked when we heard it. It’s pretty overwhelming,” Wasson said. “Sometimes it felt like I’ve been spinning my wheels. But then something like this happens. And you know you’re on the right track.”

In 2020, as the country shut down due to the pandemic, Wasson made the decision to keep paying his employees, but he also let his insurance lapse. Two months later, the building caught fire due to oily rags that had been left around.

“Based on information found at the scene and video footage provided, in all probability, the compilation of soiled rags containing an unknown amount of multiple chemicals, spontaneously ignited, which then caused the smoldering of the surrounding material,” the fire report reads.

At the time Wasson told the South Florida Gay News, “We will rebuild. My outlook is good. I’m just overwhelmed by the amount of love and support we’ve been shown.”

For Wasson, this effort has been a “labor of love.” He’s determined to see it through. The cost though has been significant. He estimates it’ll be $2 million by the time it reopens. Besides the grant, the community had raised $80,000. The rest of the money came from personal funds and a $1 million dollar loan.

In 2021 Roosters was put on the city's register of historic places – a rare distinction for an LGBTQ bar.

Wasson said once they decided to rebuild it quickly became apparent it was going to be a lot of more work than originally anticipated.

“Every time we touched something, more stuff had to be done,” he said. “Everything was crumbling. There was termite damage. I kept thinking ‘what the hell am I doing.’”

But he kept going.

“We’re building it for the future,” he said.

Now Wasson is ready to open this summer.


Phone: 954-514-7095
Hours: Monday - Friday 9AM - 2PM


2520 N. Dixie Highway,
Wilton Manors, FL 33305



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