Lawyers turn back on Manchester Hyatt

Published Thursday, 11-Jun-2009 in
issue 1120

It’s been a rough few months for Doug Manchester, owner of the Manchester Hyatt. And with the recent news that the American Association of Justice (AAJ) – and its 2,000-plus attorney members – is taking its annual conference elsewhere, things aren’t looking much better.

In fact, the AAJ has announced it is moving its annual summer convention to San Francisco. The event was originally scheduled to be held at Manchester’s Hyatt here in San Diego, but after Manchester contributed $125,000 to the “Yes on Proposition 8” campaign and the ensuing boycott, the AAJ decided to take its lucrative business away.

“The American Association for Justice, formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, has relocated its annual convention to avoid meeting at the San Diego hotel that has become the target of a boycott because of its owner’s support of Proposition 8. In an undated letter addressed to members, President Les Weisbrod of Miller, Curtis & Weisbrod, in Dallas, announced that the organization’s convention has been rescheduled to take place from July 25 to 29 in San Francisco.”

Manchester Hyatt has already lost a purported $7 million in the last year as a coalition of labor and GLBT organizations have banded together for the boycott. Californians Against Hate partnered with Unite Here Local 30 (the hotel workerÂ’s union) and several other GLBT organizations, including San Diego Pride July 18, 2008.

On a larger scale, most economic forecasters, including the prestigious Williams Institute, estimate that the passage of Proposition 8 will cost the state more than $800 million in the next three years, due to a loss of revenue for weddings and various auxiliary services.

Irony # 1: WhatÂ’s ironic about this, of course, is that the state has a California Travel and Tourism Commission whose sole task is to bring people and their dollars to California. The governor appoints leaders in the travel and tourism industry to sit on this powerful commission for two-year terms.

And who should we find on this prestigious and vital commission?
Why, “Papa” Doug Manchester, of course. Manchester (papadoug@manchesterfinancialgroup.com) was appointed on Oct. 12, 2007, and his term is set to expire Dec. 31, 2009.

Irony #2: The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest GLBT rights advocate, lists Hyatt Hotels, with corporate headquarters in Chicago , as one of the “Best Places to Work for GLBT Equality.”

Both the California Travel and Tourism Commission and Hyatt Corporate have similar goals: to bring families and business travelers to hotels and increase cash infusions into local economies.
There are few groups of individuals who have more disposable income to spend at restaurants, theaters and on sight-seeing than attorneys. And while California itself didnÂ’t lose the convention, as it merely migrated up-state to San Francisco, who is to say that it wonÂ’t next time? Phoenix , Las Vegas or Seattle are plausible alternatives.

We find it hard to imagine that other local commissioners are thrilled with ManchesterÂ’s actions. Andrea Fichthorn (andrew.fichthorn@seaworld.com), Executive Vice President and General Manager of Sea World San Diego canÂ’t be pleased. Neither can David Cohn of the Cohn Restaurant Group (david@cohnrestaurants.com). Several of CohnÂ’s restaurants are within walking distance of the Manchester Hyatt.

As a community it is our obligation to stand by our brothers and sisters during this boycott, and we take our hats off to those who have publicly spoken out against holding the annual conference at the Manchester, including many prominent local attorneys and even District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.
ItÂ’s time now for the governor to take action. While ManchesterÂ’s term expires at the end of the calendar year, Gov. Schwarzenegger could send a strong message that discrimination is not good business practice and that it will not be tolerated.

Gov. Schwarzenegger should ask Manchester to tender his resignation as commissioner. The commissioner’s role is to bring money into the state and local economies; as a “commissioner” Manchester has done just the opposite.

WeÂ’re not suggesting that every person in California who runs a business has to support marriage equality, but we are certainly in the midst of the very real consequences of what happens when business owners make public displays of their personal beliefs.

And while Manchester has hired a crisis-management firm and dispatched his marketing team to global travel and tourism conventions, the issue is far from resolved.

Manchester should resign his post at the California Travel and Tourism Commission and begin dialogue with the leaders of the boycott. Nothing less is acceptable. Nothing less will bring this to an end. And, frankly, it just makes common sense.

As Pride season nears, we urge you to remember the boycott isnÂ’t over and there are several other places to stay in San Diego during Pride. We urge you to continue to boycott the Manchester Hyatt, as well as ManchesterÂ’s other properties, including the Grand Del Mar Resort