Manchester Boycott To Continue Despite Donation Promise

Manchester Grand Hyatt Has Been Target Of Prop 8 Boycott Since July 2008

A boycott of the downtown Manchester Grand Hyatt hotel will continue despite reported plans by hotelier Doug Manchester to donate $125,000 to gay and lesbian groups, organizers said Friday.

The boycott started last year when the developer, a devout Catholic, gave a similar amount of money to support Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California. The measure was passed by voters in November.

At the time of the donation, Manchester said he wasn't against gays and lesbians -- only against gay marriage. Since then, the gay and lesbian community has used the Internet to orchestrate a boycott of the Manchester Grand Hyatt in downtown San Diego.

The boycott was started last July by local gay and lesbian activists, and a union that represents hotel and restaurant workers.

Manchester offered to give $100,000 in hotel credits to local gay and lesbian organizations so they can use the Grand Hyatt for events such as fundraisers, and to donate $25,000 to an organization, which will be announced within a few weeks, said Howard Bragman, a Los Angeles public relations and crisis management executive who is working with Manchester on the issue.

"He's trying to clarify his views," Kelly Commerford, director of marketing for the Grand Hyatt, told The San Diego Union-Tribune. "He's not discriminatory. He's supportive of this community. He realizes he offended people."

Fred Karger, who runs an organization called "Californians Against Hate," said in an e-mailed statement that he rejects Manchester's offer, and the boycott will continue.

"He is clearly trying to buy his way out of this, and it will not work," Karger said.

Karger claimed the hotel has lost "well over 100,000 room-nights" due to cancellations from individuals and groups.

The actual losses are unclear, but even boycott-free hotels in San Diego have been struggling, with occupancy down 13.2 percent in early April compared to the same time last year.

Manchester began taking advice from Bragman three months ago, according to the newspaper. Bragman is gay, married his partner last year and opposed Prop. 8.

Karger said Bragman has given Manchester "bad advice."

"Their proposal is a real slap in the face to the gay community and to all fair-minded people who believe in equality and support full civil rights for all gays and lesbians," Karger said. "Their feeble attempt to give free hotel rooms and services to try and lure people back to the Manchester Grand Hyatt and make them pass the union picket line is a dumb idea that will fail."

Karger said he is willing to meet with Manchester when he becomes serious about settling the dispute.

Brigette Browning, the president of UNITE HERE Local 30, said Manchester's offer did not address "the lack of job security and onerous housekeeper workload" at the hotel.

Asked to comment about the rejection, Bragman called Manchester's offer a chance to "build bridges," and indicated the hotelier is ready to talk with boycott leaders.

Bragman said he believes the Prop. 8 battle was lost because opponents failed to build bridges with religious and minority groups.

"In order to win what they ultimately want -- what I ultimately want as a gay married man -- they have to build bridges," Bragman said.