Rehoboth’s LGBT-owned restaurants and bars make sure there’s always a welcoming place for people to go — all people, whatever their orientation — for the Thanksgiving holiday.
The tradition, born of a time when many, many LGBTQ people were not welcome at family dinners — whether estranged or just far away — continues to this day.
But back in the 1980s and ’90s, discrimination reigned almost everywhere and gays sought safe, welcoming havens like Rehoboth Beach as a hometown of choice. In those days, very few restaurants and bars stayed open on Thanksgiving for folks with nowhere to go.
In those days, now-long-gone venues such as The Nomad bar, Cloud 9 Restaurant and The Renegade Dance Club were always open to provide a home for the holiday. The owners might rather have been around their own dining tables with friends, but they went to work anyway, cajoling their staff members to come in as well.
These days, bars and restaurants like the Blue Moon and the Purple Parrot are a refuge for singles, couples and groups, open on the holiday, providing a barstool and a friendly bartender to get the party started.
Hugh Fuller, of the Purple Parrot, knows why he stayed open at his first restaurant on Thanksgiving: “I had nowhere to go myself, so I knew we had to be open,” he remembered. “And we were there for a lot of people.” Now, at the Parrot, it’s a long-standing tradition to be open for the holiday.
Over the past 25 years, the site along Rehoboth Avenue where Rigby’s Restaurant now stands has hosted at least three other gay-owned venues — all serving as a refuge on Thanksgiving Day. Rigby’s owner John Gilstrap, happily ensconced at the site for many years, is determined to carry on the tradition in the cozy dining room to “give people a sense of home.”
Local bartender Stephanie DaLee remembers working at The Frogg Pond (now The Pond) and helping to start its first Thanksgiving feast back in the ’90s. “I knew there were a lot of people with no place to go,” she said. “We were always busy on that day.”
These days, more and more people of all orientations are choosing to dine out for a gourmet Thanksgiving with no dishes to wash afterwards.
With the Delaware beaches now known as The Culinary Coast, more restaurants are keeping the lights on, so everyone who needs a place to celebrate, whether alone, with friends or family can have a warm, delicious and wonderful Thanksgiving.
It’s as good as certain that there are still people who are alone and in various stages of coming out and who, for whatever reason, cannot go home for the holidays
For them, and everyone else wanting a terrific holiday meal without the mess but with a bartender to listen to their stories, Rehoboth’s holiday tradition continues. Bring your friends, bring your biological family or bring your family of choice. Here’s a sampling, and all are welcome!
Blue Moon: 35 Baltimore Ave.; 302-227-6515. Open Thanksgiving 3-9 p.m. with regular menu plus a seasonal gourmet addition — guaranteed not your traditional turkey dinner! Reservations a must as it always sells out. And the bar is open late into the evening.
Diego’s Hideaway: 37298 Rehoboth Ave.; 302-227-0818. Open 3 p.m.-1 a.m., This bar in Rehoboth’s outer Gayborhood will stay open its regular hours for beverages, music and friendly bartenders providing a holiday refuge.
The Pond Bar & Grill: 3 S. 1st St.; 302- 227-2234; www.Thepondrehoboth.com. Opens 6 p.m. Thanksgiving so you can eat, drink, and enjoy karaoke!
Purple Parrot: 134 Rehoboth Ave.; 302-226-1139 www.ppgrill.com. The restaurant opens at 1 p.m. Thanksgiving with a turkey-dinner special plus regular menu.
Rigbys Bar & Grill: 404 Rehoboth Ave. 302-227-6080, www.rigbysrehoboth.com. Traditional Thanksgiving buffet from 4-8pm.
Shorebreak Lodge: 10 Wilmington Ave.; 302-227-1007. Open 4-9 p.m. Complete Thanksgiving dinner. This site has been several restaurants over the decades, all catering to the hometown crowd at Thanksgiving. Shorebreak gets rave reviews.
The day after Thanksgiving, it’s the Rehoboth Beach Tree Lighting: This Friday night event provides fun and a real sense of community. Residents and visitors gather at the Rehoboth Beach bandstand beginning around 5:30 p.m. to hear music, join in the sing-a-longs and celebrate the launching of the holiday season at the beach.