Lake Worth Is the Coolest City in South Florida

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Ian Witlen

That "One Human Family" bumpersticker? The one you see around that's inextricably linked with Key West, that speaks to that city's eccentric, tolerant personality? It might just as well apply to Lake Worth, a similarly quirky, gay-friendly pot of many ethnicities where social/political lines -- if they aren't non-existent -- are at the very least transparent, and their implications argued. Gawd, are they ever argued -- to the point of absurdity (we'll come back to that).

First consider this: Four or five or more nights each week you can hear live music coming from the various and varied venues of the burg, like Propaganda, Speakeasy, or Coastars Coffee Bar. You can stroll or stumble at your leisure, within a ten block area, along sidewalks of unhurried pace, sampling reggae or blues or jazz or hip-hop or an especially tasty indigenous form of freak-folk, gutter punk jive exemplified by bands like Everymen, the Darling Sweets, Bonnie Riot, and Vive le Vox. Music. Lake Worth knows its music.

See also: Ten Best Places to Drink in Palm Beach County

Then consider these: the annual Gay Pride Day Parade, the annual Street Painting Festival, the annual Reggae Festival, the Bamboo Room's Blues Brews and Barbecue Festival. When the Palm Beach County Arts Council looked for a permanent headquarters, where did they go? Ditto COMPASS, the county's foremost gay rights advocacy, education and community center. And when Earth First! Journal, the radical environmental publication, needed new digs, they came all the way from Tucson. In short: arts, music, peace and love. (The dream of the sixties is alive in ElDub?)


Video by Jason Hanley

Chamber of Commerce types throughout Palm Beach County have long laid the rap that Lake Worth never gets anything done, that city government is a terminal clusterfuck where businesses don't get respect from the obstinately retrograde natives. What about capital "P" progress, they cry?

Screw that. ElDub's stubborn skepticism about developers and assorted other real estate interests has been its salvation, the only thing that's kept it from joining the high-rise parade and get-rich-quick delusions that pave so much of South Florida's landscape. Okay, that may be bad news for those whose homes are about speculation, who dream of the next real estate bubble and retiring in luxury. (Like that's worked out so well anywhere.) But for us reg'lar folks, and especially students and artists and bohemian types (you know, interesting people) it's a godsend. Property values aint the same as human values.

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29 comments
tremetol752
tremetol752

I moved to the area from Los Angeles a few years ago and without question Lake Worth is the most live able of all said burgs. There is a small walkable downtown area that is free from bland corporate infestation, a high concentration of arts and entertainment options, a great beach, and a real sense of possibility which is attractive to creative types. Cultural integration is a gradual and uneven process and I watched it unfold in several areas of Los Angeles over a decade. Areas like Echo Park and Silver Lake are exemplary of how this can occur and be a benefit to all the various subgroups-although you'd be hard pressed to find any Confederate Flags in those 'hoods. I don't think that mandating that various groups perform x amount of songs in spanish is a solution, and if anything that type of prescriptive rhetoric only inflames the parties in question. Civic engagement is an organic process that happens on a human scale within the context of individual relationships-so the responsibility is yours to cultivate this understanding directly. Negative expectations will produce negative results, and thats the biggest hurdle here and the thing that surprises me the most since moving in-the level of petty animosity and the hateful tone on many of the local politico blogs. Social pressure needs to be applied to moderate  these extreme positions.

jefriedenberg
jefriedenberg

The restaurants have a lot of work to do, too.  Kilwins is over-priced and lacks sugar cones.  Havana Hideout needs to stop frying its corn tortillas and just warm them on each side without oil and keep them soft.  The moros (rice and beans) with melted cheddar is too dry and should abandon the cheddar. The mahi wrap at South Shores is too dry.  The Thai place is great (congrats!). The Cottage has some decent dishes (especially the stuffed  "purses,"  but could benefit from a little more creativity and getting its music act together.  

jefriedenberg
jefriedenberg

Lake Worth is neither a melting pot nor a salad bowl because the immigrant community is isolated and excluded. It has some of the best dual language programs in the public schools but the arts and business communities are ENGLISH-ONLY.  This includes the shows at the Playhouse, and music on the cultural stage, the music in the bars (yes Bamboo room occasionally brings in a band that plays a few songs in Spanish).  Special events in Lake Worth are narrated in English only. Even the children's show at the  Playhouse was English-only.   Believe it or not, many other cities are not like that.  When I go to events in Broward and Dade, announcements are in at least  two languages.  Lake Worth is about 40-50% Latin (and there are Kreyol and French-speaking Haitians, as well) , but that is not reflected anywhere, except in the schools.  How many of you have visited the dual language program at North Lake school?  How many of you knew it existed?  The business community needs to work with the schools to support bilingualism and multiculturalism in the city. Lake Worth is existing in the dark ages, and I'll guess losing potential business from the community it is excluding, as a result.  How about extending a welcoming hand by printing some of your promotional materials in more than English? Ask the bands in your bars if they can do some songs in Spanish.    

samstersmithy
samstersmithy

I'm not objective since I live in Lake Worth and own two rental properties here.  And as annoying as the City Gov. can be, and the local politic drama, City Manager won't talk to residents, etc., there is quite a bit of charm in our city.  The drama between the factions can get annoying, but I'm glad that people care and that they fight for trees and fight against high-rises, etc.

First, waterfront access.  Beautiful new casino/beach park, it is full and bustling every time I am there.  But then you have the great intracoastal waterfront municipal golf course, you have Bryant Park, the Snook Islands, Old Bridge Park, South Palm Park, fishing pier, kayak trail, etc.  We have a lot of public waterfront access and it is great.

Second, downtown, filled with fun and funky music, bars and dining spots.  Paradiso is 5 star such that the Palm Beachers come over to dine.  Couco Pazzo is another great spot as is Callero's Steak House, Safire Asian Fusion, etc.  

Third, music and "culture".  Lake Worth is the best music town in Palm Beach Co.  There is great music at Bamboo (the best blues), South Shore, Brouges, and other spots.  There are art galleries, art shows, the street painting festival, the playhouse, etc.  There are local festivals just about every other weekend in Bryant Park or in front of the library.  

And then there is the "culture", meaning we have a mix of people, yes some poor, yes some immigrant, yes some very rich, yes some snowbirds, yes some Finnish, families, professionals, gays, and then the folks that we call salty pirates.  We are a dual income professional couple who could live anywhere in So. Fla. but Lake Worth in the spot to be.  

There are beautiful homes, historic homes in College Park, Parrot Cove, South Palm and other pockets.  



Lewis Maldonado
Lewis Maldonado

My cousins live in lake worth and lantana Alexis painted a pretty vivid picture.

jetrun4327
jetrun4327

downtown LW is sleazy, good bars, but there are no decent restaurants, unless downtown pizza counts. BUT...for what i pay in rent for a 3/1 within walking distance of the beach ill take it. also, take a walk up and down palmway, oceanside, etc and you will discover some incredible architecture and a lot of people who take a lot of pride in their neighborhoods. LW is a tale of 2 cities for sure, so much potential, but half of it is run down and embarrassing...

Alexis Terrosa
Alexis Terrosa

its not even a quarter mile strip of bars and things to do the rest is run down and pretty much a hot bed of cops episodes

mattbymaster
mattbymaster

How LW could be better:

As to the area west of Dixie: It's one of the few cities that I know of where your rental property has to be registered with the city. Code enforcement needs to get on these slum lords for packing people into these shabby homes and allowing properties to become dilapidated. Cleaning up this area would reduce crime, reduce policing and fire fighter costs, bring in a solid tax base, as well increase local business revenues.

Commercial rent is pretty high compared to other areas and is a barrier to entry for small business as well as the high utility bills. I'm pretty sure a lot of the local commercial property owners got caught in the boom and have the high rents to try and break even. The "market rent/lease rates" they're charging are unsustainable and that's why you see businesses usually only lasting 6-18 months in the area. You could probably pay a similar rate in Delray or WPB.

I'm pretty sure that due to the building boom, LW has priced itself out of revitalization. It's too expensive for the gay community compared to other areas now and it has too much crime for families to want to buy. I hope I'm wrong.

tunaville
tunaville

OOPs! You forgot the nonpareil Taco Lady and the world's best ice cream at Kelwins.  Not to mention the Lake Worth Playhouse and Stanzik Theater that showed Square Grouper three times. 

jefriedenberg
jefriedenberg

Lake Worth cool?  This is what i see when i go there.  I see that the music and art scene totally ignores the 40% "shabby" immigrant population.  And I also see confederate flags on people's homes.  NOT COOL!

fire.ant
fire.ant topcommenter

@jefriedenberg  

Good points. As I wrote:

"Lake Worth's] social/political lines -- if they aren't non-existent -- are at the very least transparent, and their implications argued."

Argue on. If any place will listen, it's El Dub.

fire.ant
fire.ant topcommenter

@Alexis Grandao Terrosa  

See jetrun4327, above.

samstersmithy
samstersmithy

@mattbymaster 

As a LW landord, I can tell you that the slum lords don't follow the rules and get a rental license or inspect.  Code has been nonexistent in the City (except for bothering those of us who do follow the rules, meaning they only go after low hanging fruit) for at least two administrations.  

fire.ant
fire.ant topcommenter

@tunaville  

Right on. My bad.
Especially the Stonzek art house cinema. A gem!

fire.ant
fire.ant topcommenter

Didn't say it's perfect.


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