As we continue our Pride Month celebrations, we want to bring attention to significant aspects and histories of the LGBTQ+ community. Today, Storytellers Alex and Melissa are going to tell the story of Gay Asbury Park, a decades-old queer haven located along the Jersey Shore.
A Brief History of Asbury Park
Asbury Park is a trendy town known for its awesome nightlife, boardwalk, and beach. In the 1950s, Asbury Park’s low-income housing was completely full and there was a huge disparity between those that lived on the east side of the tracks and the west.
The History of Asbury Park, New Jersey.
On the west side of the tracks was a large and growing population of people, primarily Black, settling into the disadvantaged low-income housing. Despite being offered federal aid to redevelop and improve living conditions west of the tracks, the city of Asbury Park declined and allowed the deterioration to continue.
Tensions grew and in the 1970s members of the community started an uprising known as the Asbury Park Riots. According to blogger and Real Estate Broker Asbury Park Mark:
“With the temperature in the high 90’s, no jobs, no hope for jobs, no recreation programs, and no real indication that city fathers were listening to their concerns – the west side youth were frustrated, angry and most likely feeling a sense of hopelessness.”
The uprising left the city in ruins with over $4,000,000 in damages. President Nixon even declared it a “disaster area” which led to the mass displacement of people living west of the tracks. But in the early 2000s, the city slowly began to pick itself up alongside the revitalization of the LGBTQ community.
An influx of tension within the community left Asbury Park in shambles.
There’s been an LGBTQ community and gay presence in Asbury Park since the 1930s, and it remained that way. In the ’50s, ’60s, and '70s, Asbury was considered a place where people could go and be themselves. During that time and through the ’80s, more LBGTQ bars, clubs, and havens opened along with the shore town. Despite the social and racial tensions happening on the other side of the tracks, the devastation protected members of the LGBTQ community.
“Nobody was paying attention. The gay community would go where they wouldn’t get beat up, and so you could go to Asbury Park because nobody you knew was going to Asbury Park.” – Kathy Kelly, Author
After the HIV-AIDS epidemic devastated the community in the 1980s, the businesses steadily began closing and the gay presence shrunk significantly. And it wasn’t until the early 2000’s when urban professionals, and members of the LGBTQ community, returned to Asbury Park and began their work. After two whole decades of restoration and redevelopment, Asbury Park is now a hip and trendy destination for people of all ages and backgrounds.
Despite its complicated racial and social history, Asbury Park has been converted into an inclusive and progressive town. Like any other city, it has a ways to go but is in much better shape thanks to the LGBTQ+ community.
Now, I'll pass the mic over to my co-writer Melissa who will describe the rich LGBTQ culture of Asbury Park.
The Culture of Gay Asbury Park
Gay Asbury Park is notorious for being a resort destination for LGBTQ+ identifying people, as well as allies. This beach town is famous for being Jersey Shore’s destination for Pride celebrations, and we have highlighted this notion on our social media platforms this month.
Now that we’ve delved into the tumultuous history of exactly how Gay Asbury became a haven for the LGBTQ+ community, thanks to my co-writer Alex, we can share the cultural aspects that might make readers want to check out some local spots this summer- with Asbury Park thriving instead of struggling.
A Street View of Asbury Park, New Jersey.
According to contributors from GayCities.com:
"Like any resort town, Asbury Park is most vibrant during the spring and summer seasons, but you'll find a significant amount of active gay locals all year round. It won't be hard to find gay-friendly venues in this vacation town.”
This statement couldn’t be more true since Asbury Park is currently bustling with visitors and locals alike. If you’re planning a trip to Asbury, the summer is the prime time to go.
Starting with restaurants, there are a plethora of LGBTQ-owned or allied businesses in downtown Asbury. Taka, a modern Japanese restaurant, The Chat & Nibble, a cozy diner-Esque eatery, and the Twisted Tree Cafe, for delicious coffee and organic bites, all come to mind. Just a few minutes from the beach and sprawling boardwalk, you can stop by any of these establishments for a quick bite after a long day of taking the sun.
If nightlife is more your speed, Asbury is a place that truly knows how to party. With being in lockdown for the last year, enjoy a cocktail and let loose at one of the three amazing Gay-owned clubs if you’re following CDC guidelines, of course. The three LGBTQ-owned clubs in Asbury Park are Paradise, Georgies, and Watermark. If you’re looking for some awesome music, Asbury is also home to The Stone Pony- a famous music venue that housed New Jersey’s finest talents like Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi.
With all of these places to travel to, you’re going to obviously need some lodging, which GayTravel.com and Pedacitos Blog have you covered for. The Empress Hotel is the only gay-oriented hotel in all of Asbury, with an adult club included! Right now, prices can range from anywhere between $250-$350 a night, depending on the day and season- but you can score a great deal if you book in advance!
Asbury Park has been an important part of New Jersey’s LGBTQ+ community since the 1930s, making it a landmark location for Pride month. As a New Jersey resident myself, I can attest to the wonderful hospitality that I have encountered from the various LGBTQ-owned shops, restaurants, and more
A TikTok highlighting Talula's Pizza, an LGBTQ-allied business, in Asbury Park.
Alex and I hope that you feel inspired to take a trip to Asbury Park this summer to soak in its historical and cultural value. The diversity and inclusivity within Asbury is something to be celebrated, not only during Pride Month but every day. Plan a trip to the Jersey Shore this summer and see for yourself all of the wonderful LGBTQ+ events that this local town has to offer!
Want to know more? Are you interested in becoming a contributor for Pedacitos? We'd love to hear your stories! Send us a message and we will get back to you!